aspirin bottle and bottles of Motrin IB (ibuprofen) and Advil

Once upon a time doctors actually prescribed aspirin for headaches, backaches, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other painful conditions. But once non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) hit the market, aspirin became a step child. Instead of recommending aspirin against pain, physicians prescribed drugs like Clinoril (sulindac), Feldene (piroxicam), Motrin (ibuprofen), Naprosyn (naproxen), Voltaren (diclofenac), Mobic (meloxicam) or Celebrex (celecoxib).

The Seduction of the name “Nonsteroidal”

During the 1950s physician prescribed a LOT of steroids. Drugs like cortisone and prednisone became incredibly popular. That’s because they made doctors seem like magicians. A patient suffering from the debilitating symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis could get dramatic relief from corticosteroids. Only later did we learn that such relief came at a steep price: hypertension, weight gain, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma and much more. That’s why the idea of “non steroidal” pain relief was so appealing.

Not only did doctors embrace NSAIDs, they began to shun aspirin against pain relief. They presumed that aspirin was more dangerous than the newer NSAIDs. Aspirin definitely caused stomach ulcers. The fact that other prescribed NSAIDs did too didn’t seem as scary. There was also the perception that drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen were more effective than aspirin against pain. What doctors didn’t realize then was that NSAIDs were hard on the heart and vascular system.

Read more about that “little” complication at these links:

Is There a Link Between NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and Heart Attack?

Really Bad News About Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Other NSAIDs

Readers Wonders About Aspirin Against Pain:

Q. Since all NSAIDs except aspirin increase the risk of heart attacks and many other problems, why isn’t aspirin used more often for pain?

A. There is a perception that aspirin is less effective than NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen, though there’s no convincing evidence that such NSAIDs are superior for pain relief. Many health professionals also worry that aspirin is more irritating to the digestive tract. All NSAIDs, including aspirin, can cause irritation and ulcers.

As you note, aspirin does not increase the risk for heart attacks the way other NSAIDs do. Anyone who takes aspirin for more than a few days should consult a physician for advice and monitoring, though. The doctor will be on the lookout for signs of digestive damage.

Other Readers on Aspirin Against Pain:

Carolyn in Florida offers:

“I started taking ENTERIC coated aspirin and take it with food.
It helps the arthritis in my thumbs better than any of the NSAIDs.

“I am following the anti inflammatory food plan. The aspirin is effective when I take it once or twice a day.”

Vali in Amsterdam says his doctor still prescribes aspirin:

“My doctor told me that aspirin is safe. It is advisable to take an antacid prior to your aspirin just to protect your stomach, unless you use a buffered aspirin.”

We would disagree with Vali’s doctor in that some people develop ulcers even if they take aspirin with an antacid. Buffered aspirin may not always protect the stomach from irritation or lesions.

Marilyn in Alabama says:

“Aspirin has been my savior for over 40 years. My stomach tolerates it well, making me reluctant to venture in the land of other NSAIDs.”

Robert in San Diego offers:

“I consider aspirin as my first and most preferred choice for muscle and joint related pain. Aspirin has true therapeutic properties not associated with any other pain reliever. I find that it seems to help resolve the source of the pain rather than just mask the pain. Taking a regular regimen of regular strength, enteric coated aspirin for several days really makes a huge difference!

“Is it as convenient as once or twice-a-day drugs? No, but the results, for me, are well worth the inconvenience. I wish to credit a physiatrist at Ohio State University Hospital for informing me of the benefits of aspirin 30+ years ago!”

Final Word on Aspirin Against Pain:

No one should ever take aspirin regularly without medical supervision. It is an NSAID. That means it can be just as irritating to the digestive tract as ibuprofen or naproxen. The good news, though, is that it is unlikely to increase the risk of a blood clot or heart attack.

Share your own aspirin story (positive or negative) below in the comment section.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Janet

    I always dissolve aspirin in water before taking. Not sure if it helps against stomach problems.

  2. Antonio Reis

    I give an explanation of the fact that NSAIDs increase the risk of MI here:

    Heitor Reis, A. “On the etiology of cardiovascular diseases: A new framework for understanding literature results”, Medical Hypotheses, 92, 94–99 (2016)
    Heitor Reis, A. “Acidemia and blood free fatty acids: analysis of cardiovascular risk factors in a new context.” Discovery Medicine 23(126):183-188 (2017) (OPEN ACCESS)

    Essentially, NSAIDs cause acidemia, which in the context of high concentrations of Free Fatty Acids increases the risk of MI

    • Thai

      Antonio Reis, are you saying that regular aspirin or other NSAID use acidifies the body? I ask because I’ve read that having a higher acid Ph in one’s body/blood isn’t a good thing and can lead to various diseases.

      Terry or Joe, if you also know the answer to this question, it would be most helpful to your readers! I’ve been taking low dose aspirin for decades, after reading it can lower some cancer incidences as well as possibly prevent heart attacks and strokes. (It gives me no GI problems.)

      Thanks to all of you for sharing your knowledge on the effects of aspirin/NSAIDS on the possible acidification of our body.

  3. Richard

    I have found that aspirin relieves pain better than other item. The other NSAIDS have too many bad effects, plus do NOT offer the pain relief when compared to aspirin.

  4. Susan

    Aspirin does not work as a pain reducer for me at all, not even a little bit, never has. A few years ago my brother mentioned to me that he doesn’t bother taking aspirin for pain because it doesn’t help at all. Perhaps this is a hereditary condition? Anyway, I end up taking other NSAID’s for pain, but fortunately I rarely feel the need to use them.

  5. Marian

    You comment on the fact that buffering doesn’t reduce the dangers to the stomach, but fail to comment on “enteric coated” aspirin. Does this reduce the risk?

  6. Ceebie
    Raleigh, NC

    What about aspirin with or immediately after a meal? Would that provide some protection from gastrointestinal side effects.

  7. Pat

    I was a PT for 40+ years. I remember when RA was treated with thousands of mgs a day. It was all they had except for gold so the variety now is quite a change. I wish they would find a way to make an extended release aspirin because I agree w/ others that it really is best for chronic pain. Combined with acetaminophen & caffeine it is truly the headache pill. My definition of migraine is that this combo did not work.
    On the other hand, I find that Ibuprofen is best for acute joint/muscle pain and Naproxen for tooth related pain. The few times I tried Celebrex it was great but so are the side effects for someone my age.
    People forget that aspirin is an NSAID and most of the research includes “Nonaspirin NSAIDS” in the title. There is little research on finding ways to use aspirin safely because it is dirt cheap.

  8. Anne

    I’ve always felt aspirin works better for headaches. But I do like ibuprofen for muscle aches, and I don’t use it very often.

  9. Mary

    Interesting article to read. Last week, had my meds re-newed. Of course had to have my blood tested. Got a call back from the Dr.’s office. Have to quite taking Motrin. Because it shows that my kidney are getting a little bit slow. Have to push liquids. Now, my question is this. Just what am I suppose to take when my arthritis gives by problems? I cannot take Tylenol. That does not work for me. Anybody have any answers for me? Would love to hear from ya’ll.

  10. Virginia Tedder
    Greensboro NC

    Thought stomach ulcers were caused by a virus, not aspirin.

    • Terry Graedon

      Not a virus but bacteria: Helicobacter pylori. Yes, that is a cause. But so are aspirin and NSAIDs.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.