Asked by: Sam Foley, Basingstoke

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When experiencing a bad headache or other acute pain, most people reach for tablets of the ‘big three’ over-the-counter painkillers: aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen. But which one works best? A recent study by a team led by Dr Andrew Moore of the Pain Research Unit at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford found that aspirin only works well in around 35-40 per cent of people, compared to 45 per cent of those taking paracetamol and 55 per cent for ibuprofen. The proportions for all these increase by around 5 to 10 percentage points if 100mg of caffeine are added. According to Dr Moore, the best results come from a combination of 500mg of paracetamol, 200mg of ibuprofen plus a strong cup of coffee. He cautions, however, that anyone with recurrent pain should see their GP.


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Authors

Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.

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