What are the alternatives to Paracetamol?

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Paracetamol’s consumption has been increasing exponentially ever since its initial introduction in 1877. However, there are many other painkillers available, and this article looks at some of the best alternatives.

Paracetamol is one of the world’s most commonly used medications for pain and fever relief. The United Nations has the drug on its List of Essential Medicines, and to date, it has been prescribed over 27 million times in the United States alone. This generic medication can be used to cure a variety of ailments such as common fevers, but it is largely purchased to alleviate mild to moderate pain, for instance, if you have a headache. Paracetamol-based products are some of the best painkillers for a headache that you can buy, particularly because of their low cost and efficacy. The drug works quickly to target non-nerve pains. According to the UK National Health Service, adults can take two 500mg tablets up to four times a day.

However, when it comes to pain relief, paracetamol isn’t the only drug in town, particularly if you are allergic to it. Depending on the type of pain you have, there are all sorts of safe painkillers you can take. For example, if you’re experiencing pain as a result of inflammation and you have a headache or bad back, then an anti-inflammatory will work well. If you’re experiencing sensitive pain in the body and have damaged nerve conditions, or infections, like shingles, you can take tablets that change the workings of the central nervous system. Paracetamol is clinically proven to bring fast and effective pain relief, but sometimes other medicines will be more effective for the condition you’re experiencing.

So if you’ve been wondering about how to get painkillers that aren’t paracetamol-based, then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s look at a list of painkillers that are widely used, clinically backed, and will provide a safe and effective alternative.


When you are experiencing pain as a result of inflammatory issues, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are common painkillers that work well. Along with mild to moderate pain reduction, these drugs can cure migraines, menstrual periods, and rheumatoid arthritis.

One great thing about ibuprofen is that it is safe to take in conjunction with paracetamol, as the two drugs work on the body in different ways. However, refrain from taking ibuprofen for a long period. Doing this will increase the risk of bleeding, organ damage, stomach upset, and even heart problems. It’s also vital to stick to the recommended dose, and unless a doctor prescribes it, do not take ibuprofen if you’re pregnant.


This is another type of NSAID that helps alleviate the body from inflammatory-based pain. Along with pain reduction, it can be used to prevent strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks for those who are at high risk. It provides similar pain relief to paracetamol, but the effects of painkillers here are typically a lot slower, kicking in after 30 minutes or more. You should never give aspirin to a child younger than 16 unless prescribed by a doctor, as there are possible links between taking it and Reye’s syndrome development.

Diclofenac gel

This is a great alternative if you want to treat common aches and pains and is particularly effective if you’ve got problems with muscles, joints, and bones. You’ll be able to purchase the gel over the counter from most countries around the world, and it’s safe to apply to children’s skin.

So how do painkillers work when it comes to a gel? The beauty of diclofenac gel and topical painkillers is that you can control exactly which part of the body you want them to work on. Simply take the gel and apply a small amount to any swollen area. Within seconds it will feel cool on the skin and start alleviating the body of pain. You can use the gel between two and four times a day, depending on its strength. Typically the gel is best applied in the morning and the evening, and if you’re going to use it more than twice, do space the application out by at least four hours. Refrain from using it any more than four times a day, and always check with your pharmacist.


Originating from poppy sap, codeine is an opiate drug that is commonly taken to treat pain, diarrhea, and coughing. It is a mild opiate that works quickly to alleviate the body of medium-intensity pain. Codeine is commonly purchased over the counter, but higher-dose variants need to be prescribed by a doctor, usually because it can be easy to become dependent on it. As a general rule of thumb, take special consideration with opiates as they all contain addictive properties and are hard to stop taking if you develop a habit.

Effervescent painkillers

Soluble types of painkillers are high in salt, typically containing around a gram per tablet. The biggest advantage of dissolving your medication in water is that it prevents localized concentrations of medication. Medications like these mean that the chance of irritation is low, and the efficiency of uptake is high.

However, taking such painkillers increases the risk of developing stroke and heart disease as it raises your blood pressure. If you are someone who has been advised to reduce your salt consumption, you may want to consider other options.


Just like paracetamol works wonders for pain caused by nerve sensitivity, Amitriptyline can also be used to treat such ailments. If you’re suffering from sciatica, shingles, nerve pain, or diabetes, this is an effective medicine. Word of warning, though – some people report side effects of dizziness or drowsiness, so do consult your doctor before taking it. In most countries around the world, it can only be prescribed by your doctor and won’t be available for purchase without the prescription.

Take painkillers safely

Medication should be taken with the number one goal of improving your life, and not every painkiller is right for the job. Paracetamol, its alternatives, and prescription painkillers work to relieve pain but often in very different ways. Don’t forget that each painkiller may have potential side effects, and these need to be weighed up before use. Stay clear of any homemade painkillers, including products that haven’t been approved by government bodies – if a substance hasn’t been subject to rigorous scientific trials, then you shouldn’t be using it! As with any medication, make sure that you consult with your doctor or physician to see if it will work for you, especially if you are unsure of the risks involved.

Article edited and fact checked by our editorial team

About the authors:

Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D., is a former Pharmacy Director who worked for several large public hospitals in Southern Italy, as well as for the humanitarian NGO Emergency. He is now an accomplished book author who has written on topics such as medicine, technology, world poverty, human rights, and science for publishers such as SAGE Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing, and Mission Bell Media. His latest books are “Universal Health Care” (2019) and “What You Need to Know about Headaches” (2022). A data analyst and freelance journalist as well, many of his articles have been published in magazines such as Cracked, The Elephant, Digital Journal, The Ring of Fire, and Business Insider. Dr. Butticè also published pharmacology and psychology papers on several clinical journals, and works as a medical consultant and advisor for many companies across the globe.

Rebecca Shinn is a freelance writer and dating and relationship expert with a psychology degree. Her field of expertise is relationship, dating, and marriage. The important part of Rebecca’s practice is to help couples with communication skills, problem-solving skills, stress management, or financial skills. Rebecca started writing 2 years ago to inspire and help people to have a better dating life, healthy relationships, or find a way to keep a marriage strong for long years. With all said above, Rebecca is proud to be a mother and a wife so she doesn’t only use her knowledge for helping others but keeping her family strong and happy.


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