What is the difference between acetaminophen vs. ibuprofen? Although people take these two medications to treat similar conditions, each has unique effects and precautions. Both address pain relief, but ibuprofen works better for pain caused by inflammation -- it is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. Acetaminophen or paracetamol works better for reducing fever and pain not caused by inflammation. Both medications are sold on their own or in combination with other medications, depending on their intended use. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen have various brand names, but reading the ingredients can tell you which medicine the brand contains.


1. How Do They Work?

The main job of acetaminophen is to inhibit pain signals in the brain. It doesn't inhibit inflammatory enzymes, which is why it doesn't work well as an anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen, on the other hand, inhibits prostaglandins, which are a key component in the inflammatory response. It has some capacity to reduce fever as well, but the mechanism is different and less effective than acetaminophen.

acetaminophen and ibuprofen head pain selvanegra / Getty Images

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