Naproxen vs Tylenol


For patients dealing with pain, inflammation or fever, certain drugs that inhibit the production of prostaglandins — substances in the body responsible for promoting inflammation, pain and fever — can help manage these symptoms. Naproxen and Tylenol are two such medications frequently used to relieve discomfort from various conditions. Both impact different aspects of how your body responds to pain and injury but both provide effective relief from pain and fever. Naproxen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body. On the other hand, Tylenol (Acetaminophen) classified as an analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducer), primarily helps alleviate mild to moderate pain from headaches, muscle aches, menstrual periods, colds and sore throats, toothaches, backaches as well as reduces fever.

What is Naproxen?

Naproxen (commonly known under the brand Aleve) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which represents a major development in pain management compared to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Naproxen was first approved by the FDA in 1976 and is used for reducing inflammation and relieving pain from various conditions such as headaches, muscle aches, tendonitis, dental pain, and menstrual cramps. It works by blocking your body's production of certain natural substances that cause inflammation. Naproxen has more influence on swelling due to its anti-inflammatory properties but has potential side effects like stomach ulcers or heart problems.

On the other hand, Tylenol (Acetaminophen), while still effective at managing pain and reducing fever does not have any significant anti-inflammatory effects. This means it may be less effective for conditions associated with inflammation. Its advantages lie in its gentler effect on the stomach lining compared with NSAIDs like naproxen; however overdosing can lead to liver damage.

What conditions is Naproxen approved to treat?

Naproxen is approved for the treatment of various types of pain and inflammation:

  • Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis
  • Acute gout
  • Painful periods (dysmenorrhea)
  • General pain relief from conditions like headaches, muscle aches, tendonitis, toothache and backache.

Tylenol on the other hand is commonly used for:

  • Fever reduction
  • Relief of minor aches/pains due to headache, muscle ache or common cold

How does Naproxen help with these illnesses?

Naproxen helps to alleviate pain and inflammation by reducing the levels of prostaglandins, a group of chemicals produced by the body that promote inflammation, pain, and fever. It does this by inhibiting enzymes known as cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which are involved in prostaglandin production. By blocking these enzymes, Naproxen can decrease the amount of prostaglandins that cause symptoms like pain and swelling.

On the other hand, Tylenol or acetaminophen primarily works on the central nervous system to block signals for pain perception. It is also thought to act on COX enzymes in our brain leading to reduced formation of prostaglandins there - but unlike NSAIDs such as Naproxen it doesn't have much anti-inflammatory action because it doesn't inhibit COX at peripheral sites where inflammation occurs.

Both medications can therefore be effective for relieving different types of pain: while Tylenol may be preferred for alleviating simple headaches or minor aches and pains, Naproxen could potentially provide more relief when there's an inflammatory component such as with arthritis or injury-related swellings.

What is Tylenol?

Tylenol, a brand name for acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol), is an analgesic and antipyretic medication, which means it's used to relieve pain and reduce fever. Unlike naproxen, Tylenol does not decrease inflammation. Its mechanism of action isn't entirely understood but is believed to involve inhibiting the synthesis of certain chemicals in the brain called prostaglandins, which help transmit pain signals and induce fever.

First approved by the FDA in 1951, Tylenol has become a common household name for over-the-counter relief from headaches, minor pains, and fever. It can be found in tablet form or liquid suspension for oral use.

Its side-effect profile is also different; taking too much can lead to liver damage or failure due to its metabolization process within that organ - this risk can increase if you consume alcohol regularly. However when taken as directed it typically doesn’t cause stomach upset like some NSAIDs such as Naproxen might do. The effects on reducing pain signals could be beneficial especially for those seeking temporary relief from minor discomforts without having anti-inflammatory needs.

What conditions is Tylenol approved to treat?

Tylenol, also known as acetaminophen, is approved for the treatment of:

  • Minor pain from various conditions such as headache, toothache, menstrual cramps, backache
  • Fever due to cold or flu
  • Osteoarthritis related pain

It's often chosen because it tends not to upset the stomach and has fewer risks of bleeding compared with other over-the-counter pain relievers.

How does Tylenol help with these illnesses?

Tylenol, also known by its generic name acetaminophen, is a common over-the-counter medication used for relieving pain and reducing fever. Unlike Naproxen which works by decreasing the levels of prostaglandins, chemicals responsible for inflammation in the body, Tylenol primarily acts on the central nervous system. It inhibits an enzyme in the brain that produces prostaglandins only within the central nervous system thereby leading to its pain-relieving and fever-reducing effects. Its specific action makes it less effective against inflammatory pains compared to NSAIDs like Naproxen but may be preferred due to its fewer side effects concerning stomach irritation or bleeding risks. Therefore, it may be prescribed when a patient does not respond well or has contraindications with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Naproxen.

How effective are both Naproxen and Tylenol?

Naproxen and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are both well-established medications for managing pain, with naproxen also providing anti-inflammatory effects. Although they were approved by the FDA several years apart – Tylenol in 1951 and Naproxen not until 1976 – their long histories of use have proven them to be safe and effective options for a variety of conditions.

In terms of effectiveness in controlling pain, a meta-analysis from 2015 concluded that high-dose naproxen is superior to other NSAIDs or paracetamol (Tylenol) for relieving osteoarthritis pain. However, another study ranked Tylenol as only slightly less effective than ibuprofen or naproxen in reducing dental pain after surgery.

The safety profiles differ significantly between these two drugs. While Naproxen can cause gastrointestinal bleeding at higher doses or prolonged usage due to its mechanism of action as an NSAID which inhibits COX-2 enzymes responsible for protecting stomach lining against acid attacks; on the contrary, Tylenol has been associated with liver toxicity when taken in large amounts due to its metabolite NAPQI which can build up and damage liver cells if not quickly removed by glutathione present within these cells.

A systematic review conducted in 2004 showed that while both medicines provided relief from fever symptoms within the first day of treatment, it was noted that Naproxen had additional benefits such as reducing inflammation often seen accompanying fevers. This same review highlighted the widespread use of Tylenol worldwide due to its efficacy and safety profile over many other analgesics.

While more recent studies continue showing similar results regarding effectiveness between these two drugs, it's generally accepted that choice between them depends largely upon individual patient characteristics like age, underlying health condition(s), potential drug interactions etc., where one may offer certain advantages over another based on specific needs/circumstances.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) remains a first-line option for many patients seeking relief from minor pains/aches including those caused by common colds/flu thanks mainly towards its good tolerability across vast population groups including children & elderly alike whereas Naproxene would usually be considered once basic measures fail providing desired effect especially when signs point towards presence underlying inflammatory processes requiring more potent intervention beyond simple analgesic actions alone being offered through Acetaminophens without any risk causing untoward side-effects like gastric ulcers commonly associated using traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents extensively acting against cyclo-oxygenase enzyme systems involved maintaining physiological integrity along digestive tracts besides exerting proposed therapeutic activities elsewhere throughout human bodies ultimately leading improved quality life experiences amidst suffering various painful situations arising occasionally during normal living circumstances encountered routinely amongst us all together around our shared global home called Earth!

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Naproxen typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Naproxen usually range from 220–660 mg/day for pain relief, but research indicates that a single dose of 220 mg is often sufficient for relieving minor aches and pains in most adults. Adolescents aged 12 years or older may start with a lower dosage if approved by their healthcare provider. In either population, the dosage can be increased after several hours if there is no response, but should not exceed the maximum daily limit of 660 mg. On the other hand, Tylenol (Acetaminophen) dosages vary greatly depending on age and weight; however, an adult should generally not exceed a maximum dose of 4000mg per day.

At what dose is Tylenol typically prescribed?

Tylenol, also known as acetaminophen, is typically initiated at a dosage of 325–650 mg every 4 to 6 hours. The dose may then be increased up to 1000 mg per intake, if needed and as tolerated. However, the maximum daily dosage should not exceed 4000 mg in adults and even less in children depending on their weight and age. This limit must be strictly followed because excessive consumption of Tylenol can lead to serious liver damage or failure. It's important to check other medications you might be taking for acetaminophen content since it is common in many over-the-counter drugs and combination prescriptions.

What are the most common side effects for Naproxen?

Common side effects of Naproxen compared to Tylenol can include:

  • Nausea
  • Heartburn, stomach pain or ulcers
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, drowsiness/sleepiness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Itching or skin rash
  • Mild fluid retention and edema (swelling)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased blood pressure

While these are not all the possible side effects, they are among the most common ones. Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to medications and it's important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Naproxen?

While Naproxen and Tylenol both serve as effective pain relievers, it's crucial to be aware of potential side effects. With Naproxen, rare but serious side effects may include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction including hives, difficulty breathing, swelling in your face or throat
  • Adverse skin reactions such as red or purple skin rash with blistering and peeling
  • Vision problems like blurred vision or changes in color perception
  • Heart issues such as irregular heartbeats, chest discomfort, shortness of breath and sudden dizziness (possibly indicating a cardiovascular event)
  • Neurological symptoms like headache, confusion and coordination difficulties which could indicate changes in sodium levels
  • Severe reactions involving the nervous system - high fever, sweating confusion coupled with muscle stiffness might suggest a severe condition called neuroleptic malignant syndrome.

If you experience any of these symptoms while taking Naproxen seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Tylenol?

Tylenol, also known as Acetaminophen, can be associated with the following side effects:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache or mild dizziness
  • Insomnia (sleep problems)
  • Rash or itching While these are less common and usually mild when they do occur, it's important to note that overuse or incorrect dosing of Tylenol can result in serious liver damage. Always adhere strictly to the recommended dosage guidelines. If you experience any severe symptoms such as confusion, seizures, severe skin reactions or changes in urination patterns after taking Tylenol, seek immediate medical attention.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Tylenol?

While Tylenol is generally safe and well-tolerated, it's important to be aware of potential side effects, which can include:

  • Allergic reactions such as skin rash, itching or hives
  • Symptoms of liver damage like yellowing eyes/skin, dark urine, persistent nausea/vomiting or severe stomach/abdominal pain
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Difficulty waking up

In rare cases, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) may cause a severe skin reaction that can be fatal. This could happen even if you've taken acetaminophen in the past without any reaction. If you notice symptoms like skin redness or rashes that spread and cause blistering and peeling, fever or sore throat lasting more than 3 days, stop taking Tylenol immediately and seek medical attention right away.

Contraindications for Naproxen and Tylenol?

Naproxen and Tylenol, like most pain relievers, may worsen certain symptoms in some individuals. If you notice any increase in discomfort or unusual side effects after taking either of these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Naproxen nor Tylenol should be taken if you are already using blood thinners or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Always inform your healthcare provider about all the medications and supplements that you are currently taking; this is necessary to prevent potentially harmful drug interactions. Moreover, Naproxen requires careful consideration for individuals with heart disease or a history of stomach ulcers due to its potential cardiovascular risks and gastrointestinal side effects. As for Tylenol, excessive usage can lead to liver damage especially when combined with alcohol so it’s crucial not exceed the recommended daily dosage.

How much do Naproxen and Tylenol cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 100 tablets of Aleve, a Naproxen sodium (220 mg) product, averages around $10–$15. Depending on your required dose (up to 660mg per day), it works out to about $0.22-$0.99 per day.
  • Tylenol Extra Strength (500 mg Acetaminophen) costs approximately $10 for a package of 100 caplets, which works out to roughly $1/day at the maximum recommended over-the-counter dosage.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Naproxen Sodium i.e., close to or at its max OTC daily limit of 660mg), then brand-name Tylenol could be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis – but this really depends on how much you need and where you buy your medication from.

As with all medications though: cost should not be your primary consideration in determining which drug is right for you.

For their generic equivalents:

  • Generic naproxen sodium can usually be found available in packages ranging from 50 up to several hundred tablets/capsules. Costs work out at between about $0.07 or so per tablet/capsule when bought in larger quantities.
  • Acetaminophen is typically sold in bulk packs that bring down the unit cost further still – often as low as perhaps just one cent ($0.01) each when buying store brands or value-sized packs containing hundreds or even thousands of pills!

Popularity of Naproxen and Tylenol

Naproxen, available in generic form and under brand names such as Aleve, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 6.5 million people in the US in 2020. Naproxen accounted for just over 10% of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) prescriptions in the US. However, it appears to be one of the most common NSAIDs due to its dual benefits of reducing inflammation and relieving pain. The use of naproxen has been generally increasing since its approval by FDA.

Acetaminophen, better known by its brand name Tylenol, is a widely used analgesic and antipyretic medication that does not have any significant anti-inflammatory effects like NSAIDs do. It was taken by an estimated 22 million people in the USA in 2020 alone. In terms of overall analgesic prescriptions across America, acetaminophen accounts for around 30%. Despite concerns over liver damage with excessive consumption, acetaminophen's prevalence remains steady over years due to its efficacy and safety at recommended doses.


Naproxen and Tylenol (acetaminophen) are commonly used over-the-counter drugs for pain relief, each with a long history of use. They have been proven more effective than placebo treatments in numerous clinical studies and meta-analyses. Naproxen is an NSAID that works by reducing the production of prostaglandins, substances in the body causing inflammation and pain. On the other hand, Tylenol is not classified as an NSAID; it targets the central nervous system to relieve pain but does not reduce inflammation.

Both medications can be paired together under careful supervision by a healthcare provider since they work differently to manage pain. However, their combination should be closely monitored due to potential risks such as liver damage or gastrointestinal bleeding.

Naproxen tends to be recommended for conditions where there's also inflammation present like arthritis while acetaminophen is often prescribed for general pain relief where there's less emphasis on anti-inflammatory effects, such as headaches or minor injuries.

Both are available in generic form which could provide cost savings especially if you're paying out of pocket. Their effects can usually be felt rapidly although this may vary between individuals based on factors like age, metabolism rate among others.

The side effect profile between both drugs differs somewhat: while generally well-tolerated, naproxen carries risks of stomach ulcers and cardiovascular events particularly when used long-term whereas Tylenol may lead to liver problems if taken in large doses or combined with alcohol consumption. Patients must monitor symptoms closely when starting these medications.