It very common for runners to begin taking over the counter medications in efforts to relieve the pain of an overuse syndrome. The thought is that because they are over the counter they are safe and have no real detrimental side effects. This is not true for several reasons. First, patients tend to take the medications at doses that are prescription doses because the frequently double up after googling what is recommended by a physician. Secondly, patients become dependent on them because the pain is being masked or improved and the underlying cause of the injury is not being addressed.
What is the difference between Tylenol and NSAIDS?
Tylenol, or acetominophen, is an analgesic and only reduces pain not inflammation. It also has antipyretic effects – reduces fever. NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and Naprosyn (Alleve) work by reducing inflammation which also helps to reduce the pain associated with the overuse injury. NSAIDS are better in resolving an issue because they treat the inflammation, but again the root of the problem needs to be addressed. A downside to NSAIDS is that they can have detrimental effects on the stomach lining leading to bleeding and ulcerations. Celebrex is prescribed NSAID that does not effect the stomach and is safer theoretically then taking ibuprofen.
Ultimately, treating the underlying cause of the injury is the most effective way at improving your pain. Do not rely on these OTC medications to cure you. Tylenol is much safer then taking ibuprofen when used on an as needed basis but if the condition does not resolve after a week of taking either medications, seeking a physician would be more beneficial then continuing the medication.
See the below video on the differences between Tylenol and NSAIDS.