Is it ok to take Advil?

The information contained in this blog post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. 

Young Woman Holding Her Neck in Pain

When you have a headache, backache, knee pain, menstrual cramps, or any other type of pain, you want it to go away NOW.  You’ve seen the commercials for pain medications telling you that they will do that for you.  But, are there hidden costs?

When I was in my early 20’s, I had horrible headaches.  The pain was debilitating, but if I took a couple Ibuprofen (the generic form of Advil) I’d be able to go about my day.  So, I took quite a lot of the stuff.

Eventually I started to wonder if I was doing damage to my body.


If you are in a lot of pain, you need to do something to relieve it.  Often before you can really get to the deeper levels of healing, you need to quiet the screaming that is going on in you body.

OTC pain meds can feel like a God send in these situations, and it is ok to use them in limited amounts. However, these medications act like a bandaid.  And when you put on a bandaid, it is important to understand why you are bleeding.

Going to the Source

One of the dangers of OTC pain medications is masking the underlying cause of your symptoms.  While they may make you feel better, they won’t treat the root cause of your problem.  For example, I came to learn that my headaches were triggered by certain foods that I was eating, and the poor way I was dealing with stress.

While taking a pill is much easier than improving your diet and your stress response, changing these things had profound ramifications for my health.  Not only did my headaches go away, but my digestion got better, my sleep improved, and a whole host of other things shifted.

Your Stomach, Your Liver, and Your Kidneys

In addition to masking symptoms, pain medications have some very real potential side effects.  There are two basic types of OTC pain medications: NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs— such as Advil, Ibuprofen and Motrin) and Acetaminophen (found in Tylenol, and some generic medications).

The biggest risk with NSAIDs is severe stomach bleeding.  They can also make high blood pressure worse, and cause kidney damage (typically in people who are over 60).

The biggest risk of Acetaminophen is liver damage.  If you take the recommended dose, the medication is considered safe.  However, if you take more than the recommended dose you can end up with liver disease or liver failure.  According to, Acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US.

“Yes, but….”

So, back to our original question: is it safe to take Advil?  The answer is “yes, but…” Yes, it is ok to take Advil (or other pain medications) to help you deal with your pain.  But, you can’t stop there.

It is important to take a closer look at what is going on in your body, and to treat the root cause of your pain.


It is also very important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms you may be experiencing, and any medication you are taking.  Everyone’s body is different, and for some people even small doses of pain medications are contraindicated.