Eastern Riverina Chronicle

Exploring your over-the-counter pain management options

Paracetamol is one of the most widely used pain relief medicines in the world that is available without prescription. Picture Karolina Grabowska via Pexels
Paracetamol is one of the most widely used pain relief medicines in the world that is available without prescription. Picture Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

This is sponsored content by Haleon.

Pain is a universal experience. Recent research shows that 93 per cent of Australians have suffered with pain, ranging from migraines to arthritis, in the last year and that pain is a prevalent and complex issue with physical and emotional impacts[1].

To manage their pain, many Australians turn to common over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers such as paracetamol (e.g., Panadol) and ibuprofen (e.g., Advil). These medications are both effective, however they work differently in the body.


Several international guidelines recognise paracetamol as an essential medicine. It is one of the most widely used pain relief medicines in the world that is available without prescription. It is known to work within the central nervous system, reducing pain perception and lowering fever.

It is considered well tolerated when used as directed according to the label instructions. Suitable for 98 per cent of Australian adults[2] it is a common choice for those with sensitive stomachs.

Paracetamol is effective for mild to moderate pain, such as headaches, toothaches, muscle aches, and period pain and is also used to lower fever in conditions like colds, flu, or other illnesses. The suitability of paracetamol also applies to children for the management of pain and fever.


Ibuprofen is an example of a medicine which belongs to a class of drugs called NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). It helps to reduce pain and fever by blocking certain enzymes that produce substances in the body that contribute to inflammation and pain.

It is effective for various types of pain, including headaches, dental pain, menstrual cramps, and muscle aches. Ibuprofen also works to reduce inflammation in conditions like arthritis or injuries causing swelling.

Access to pain medication

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is introducing some changes to the size of paracetamol packs and where the different sizes can be bought in Australia. The upcoming changes are designed to reduce the chance of people purposefully misusing paracetamol, particularly among those in the community who may be more vulnerable.

From February 1, 2025, consumers will be able to purchase larger quantities (pack size of more than 50 tablets) of paracetamol over the counter from your pharmacist. Pack sizes of 16 tablets will continue to be available in grocery and convenience stores, whilst pack sizes of less than 50 tablets can be purchased from the pharmacy shelf. It is important to note that these changes do not affect the ingredients or suitability of paracetamol. For more information on the suitability of paracetamol, as well as details on the TGA guidelines, consumers can visit www.panadol.com/en-au/pack-size-changesamp;source=gmail&ust=1701812253611000&usg=AOvVaw1Vw3K3obByCSrOPLFrpWzo" rel="sponsored" www.panadol.com/en-au/pack-size-changes.

Dealing with pain can be tricky since it's a unique and personal experience. This brings challenges for both people going through it and healthcare providers trying to find effective ways to manage it. Addressing the challenges of pain involves collaboration between healthcare providers, patients, and caregivers to manage pain effectively while aiming to improve overall wellbeing and functionality.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen both offer effective relief from pain. It is essential to follow the recommended dosage and usage guidelines for both medications according to the label instructions and consult a healthcare professional, especially if there is an underlying health conditions or use of other medications to avoid potential interactions or complications.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Incorrect use could be harmful.

[1] Haleon Pain Index (HPI 5), 2023

[2] Clarke, GD et al. 2008. IJPP 2008, 16: 333-336