Can You Take Motrin and Tylenol Together?

Usually, physicians try to limit polypharmacy or your exposure to excess or redundant medications. Thus, if you present with a sore throat that needs antibiotics, you'll receive a prescription for one type of antibiotic not a prescription for several types of antibiotics. But does this guidance apply to over-the-counter pain medications, too?

Risks of Polypharmacy

There are numerous reasons why polypharmacy is problematic:

  • Firstly, the more medications that you take, the greater the risk of adverse effects or drug-drug interactions.
  • Secondly, polypharmacy often represents a scattered approach to treatment, allowing treatment overlap and often undermining one drug therapy with another.
  • Third, polypharmacy can present a risk to public health when the haphazard use of antibiotics and other drugs lead to widespread drug resistance and the possible development of superbugs.

There are clearly exceptions to the rule. One such example is the concurrent use of certain pain medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen). These medications don't interfere with each other; in fact, their combined use can reduce pain to such a degree that stronger opioid medications may not be needed.

About Tylenol

Tylenol is a type of analgesic that changes the way we perceive pain and lowers the temperature of our bodies (antipyretic). It is often combined with other medications to develop different pain formulations.

Although the exact mechanism of Tylenol remains unclear, we believe this medication works by inhibiting cyclo-oxygenase (primarily COX-2). Because Tylenol is metabolized in part by the liver, people with liver problems should avoid this drug when possible.

About Motrin

Motrin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which, like Tylenol, exerts its effects on cyclo-oxygenase and inhibits prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins mediate pain, inflammation, and fever.

Inhibition in prostaglandin synthesis also results in vasoconstriction and renal impairment which can lead to kidney failure. Thus, people with kidney problems should steer clear of Motrin.

As with other NSAIDs, such as aspirin and Aleve (naproxen), Motrin may cause stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding if overused.

Combining Tylenol and Motrin

Interestingly, despite being a common practice, very little research has been done on the co-administration of Tylenol and Motrin.

Some of the earliest research was conducted among on children. However, it's hard to draw exact correlations between pain and fever relief in children as compared with that of adults. Specifically, children who are prescribed both Tylenol and Motrin for pain and fever usually receive these medications as alternate dosages.

A small study conducted by the University of Auckland suggested that, when taken together in mixed formulation called Maxigesic, acetaminophen and ibuprofen provided better pain relief than using the drugs on their own.

Similarly, results from a systematic review published in Pain Medicine suggested that the combination of acetaminophen and an NSAID was more effective together than alone.

Opioids with Tylenol or Motrin

Opioid abuse is on the rise, and we are currently in the throes of a national crisis. Opioids are prescription medications that have serious long-term side effects and a high potential for dependence and abuse.

Furthermore, certain opioid formulations contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen, such as Vicodin (hydrocodone/acetaminophen), Combunox (oxycodone/ibuprofen), and Percocet (oxycodone/acetaminophen). It these drugs are taken with Tylenol or Motrin, they can increase the risk of side effects.

A Word From Verywell

While acetaminophen and ibuprofen are relatively safe and effective when used together, there are considerations you need to make.

To avoid overuse, always check the label of any multi-symptom cold, flu, or allergy remedy you may be taking. Many of these contain acetaminophen or an NSAID for added pain relief.

It is also important to remember that Tylenol or Motrin are only intended for short-term use. If your pain persists, call your doctor. If you have liver or kidney problems, you should avoid Tylenol or Motrin, respectively.

Why Two NSAIDS Are Not Better Than One
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources