Tylenol vs. Advil vs. Aleve: Which works better?

  • By reComparison Contributor
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Difference between Tylenol, Advil and Aleve

For many people who have a headache or some other minor pain, Tylenol, Advil and Aleve are the brands commonly reached for. More people all over the world probably take these than any other over-the-counter pain medication, so we saw fit to provide this comparison of some of the more important characteristics of each.

Advil
Aleve

Definition And Brands

The clinical name of Tylenol is Acetaminophen or Paracetamol, and it is an over-the-counter brand of medication. Advil is also known by its clinical name of Ibuprofen, and it is also sold under the name Motrin. Aleve is another brand of Ibuprofen, and it is readily available over-the-counter as well.

Usage

Tylenol is commonly used to relieve the symptoms of fever and headache, although it is not intended as an anti-inflammatory medication. This makes Tylenol unsuitable for conditions such as arthritis and sprains. Tylenol does have the distinction of being particularly useful on nerve pain.

Advil is chemically similar to aspirin, and it works in a similar way as well. Advil and other related medications work by inhibiting prostaglandin production, although it does this in a slightly different manner than aspirin.

Aleve is the only one of the three that works as an anti-inflammatory medication, and it works well for headaches as well as inflammation-based conditions such as arthritis, sprains, and even sunburn. Aleve has also been proven to relieve the effects of menstrual cramps even more effectively than aspirin.

Effects

Tylenol is generally easier on the upper digestive tract than Advil, Aleve and other over-the-counter medications for pain relief. It is also less harsh on the stomach lining, making it a better headache relief option for people suffering from acid reflux, ulcers, and related conditions. Tylenol and other Acetaminophen based products are also more suitable for people with hemophilia and for children. That being said, you do have to be careful about using Tylenol with other medications, as the combination may cause drowsiness.

Advil is quite a bit easier on the esophagus and stomach lining than aspirin, provided you take it in reasonable doses. This makes it a better choice for ulcer sufferers and those with acid reflux.

Aleve has a similar effect to Advil, although the pain relief effect lasts a lot longer (8 to 12 hours versus the 4 to 8 hours provided by other pain relief medications).

Similarities and Differences

Tylenol

  • Clinical name is Acetaminophen or paracetamol
  • Intended for the relief of fever and headache
  • Not intended as an anti-inflammatory medication
  • Not suitable for arthritis or sprains
  • Good for nerve pain
  • Less irritating effect on the upper digestive tract and stomach lining

Advil

  • Clinical name is Ibuprofen
  • Also sold as Motrin
  • Is similar to aspirin in chemical makeup and function
  • Works by controlling prostaglandin production
  • Does not causes as much esophagus and stomach lining irritation as aspirin

Aleve

  • Clinical name is Naproxen sodium
  • Provides relief for headaches
  • Also effective as an anti-inflammatory medication
  • Suitable for arthritis, sprains, sunburns, and other inflammation-based ailments
  • More effective menstrual relief than aspirin
  • Last as long as 8 to 12 hours

Aleve Commercial

Tylenol Commercial

Advil Commercial

Which is the best pain reliever?
  • Tylenol
  • Advil
  • Aleve
 
 

Discuss It: comments 20

Recent medical research has shown that non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin, Aleve, ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, etc. may be harmful to runners' kidney function if taken within 24 hours of running; only acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been shown to be safe.

careful tho. tylenol works a bit like a diuretic for me. keep extra hydrated!

I normally take Tylenol for Head aches and Aleve for body pains.

There is an icorrect statement about Aleve. The clinical name is NOT Ibuprofen. The correct name is Naprosyn.

You are technically incorrect! It is Naproxen Sodium. Check Wikipedia...

  • Guest
  • Matt Adams wrote on December 2011

Lol check wiki, how about check the bottle.

I would just like to know if Aleve is safe to take indefinitely for arthritis pain. If taken according to directions?

I tend to find that Ibuprofen works better for headaches, especially migraines. I took 3 Tylenol this morning and they wouldn't touch it...just took two Ibuprofen an hour ago and the headache is gone.

  • Guest
  • DARRELL THE WELDER wrote on January 2011

I have arthritis pretty bad in my hands and I have taken Tylenol for a while now, and it does not help at all. So I am going to start Aleve today. My work is very brutal to my hands, and they stay very sore. My only concern is that I have have stomach problems. Is there anything out there that is stomach freindly?

bc powder woks fast it tastes horrible but works

  • Guest
  • Paul Smith wrote on June 2014

Look into Boswellia, Vitamin B-6, and try using an infraheat wand or LED wand when you aren't working.

  • Guest
  • Carissa wrote on September 2011

Aleve has been the go to pain reliever for stomach cramps, but the other day I found myself with none, because I had moved and forgot it at my old place. The only thing I had was Tylenol and it took the pain away! Aleve has never taken the pain away, but has always lifted the pain/bloat-ness feeling a bit. Tylenol is also horrible for Migraines, it never feels like it takes it away or that there is any improvement really. Never took Advil, but it sounds like each one can be better for a different thing. What a test to do.

  • Guest
  • Suzanne wrote on November 2011

every one is different. not all medications are going to have the same affect on every individual. hence the term "individual" : ) try them all and decide which works best for you. Each product can have side affects. Always drink plenty of fluids so you don't clog yourself up. Remember, your bodies filters have to be able to do their job and if you are dehydrated, you can get yourself into trouble.

  • Guest
  • Gary Wayne wrote on February 2012

My doctor has taken me off Aleve and put me on Tylenol. The Tylenol doesn't work and now my kidneys are hurting. I am going back to Aleve.

why did the doctor take you off of aleve and put you on tylenol? my doctor usually says "take tylenol" for any pain and I've read some bad things about tylenol. I think the doctors get "gifts" from the medicine mfrs. for recommending them to their patients.

  • Guest
  • Omer Cyr wrote on September 2012

Two of my doctors advised me to take Tylonol for my arthritis pain as Aleve and Advil are not good for the stomach lining. Tylonol does not seem to help. Should I try Aleve again? I'm 86 so what harm is there really?

  • Guest
  • Paul Smith wrote on June 2014

Have you tried heating elements such as infraheat or LED wands? Or microwave warm wraps? Heat seems to always help with healing!

I have found at least with me aleve only works for a basis of 3 hours before the pain is as bad as before I took it.

  • Guest
  • Marc wrote on September 2013

Sorry, but any article that states: "Aleve is another brand of Ibuprofen" ...lacks all credibility. Whether a typo or not, it clearly shows a lack of care in writing the article.

Likewise, Aleve is Naproxen (the longer and more complete name is Naproxen Sodium with Sodium generally omitted for conveniene). Naprosyn is a brand name (similar to Aleve) of Naproxen.

Give me 10 minutes and I'll have Wiki showing that we had a different first president than George Washington in the U.S.

  • Guest
  • JLynne wrote on January 2014

Tylenol causes liver failure. This is from Medscape. Look it up. Drug mfgs are in bed with the FDA.

Dec 12, 2005

Seattle, WA- Acetaminophen/ paracetamol, the most widely used analgesic in the US, has become the most common cause of acute liver failure (ALF), US researchers report in the December 2005 issue of Hepatology [ 1 ].

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