Not sure what you can & can’t do when it comes to combining pain relief products? Take a look at our guide to find the right approach for you
Take the pain out of pain relief with our fuss-free guide to which options you can and can’t combine.
What are painkillers & when might I need them?
Painkillers can provide relief from things like headaches, muscle aches and period pain. You may also find pain relief helpful in managing pain from long-term health conditions like arthritis.
You might only need to take painkillers every now and then, or you may need them more often if you get things like period pain, or you’re living with a long-term condition that causes pain.
Pain relief comes in many different forms, from capsules and tablets to creams, sprays and gels. You can also get drug-free pain relief products like TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machines. TENS devices can temporarily relieve minor aches and pains when used alongside traditional pain medication.
Our article on the different types of pain relief and how to use them explains the differences between these types of painkillers.
How should I take pain medication?
Before taking any pain medication you should read the label and Patient Information Leaflet to find out if it’s suitable for you, and how to take it.
Different pain medication should be taken in different ways and at different times – such as before or after food. It’s safe to mix certain (but not all) pain relief products, but you should always read the labels carefully first.
It’s important to be aware of what painkiller is included in any medicines you may already be taking, so you don’t accidentally take more than the recommended dosage.
You might notice some cold and flu medicines contain pain relief ingredients like paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin, so it's important not to take another medicine which contains the same ingredient, at the same time. Refer to the Patient Information Leaflet or speak to your pharmacist if you’re unsure.
What pain relief can I take together?
It’s safe to take certain pain relief products together as long as you follow the dosage instructions on the label and read the Patient Information Leaflet carefully first.
If you’re aged 16 or over you can take paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time or spaced apart, as long as you take them according to the instructions on the label.
You can take paracetamol on an empty stomach, but ibuprofen is best taken with or after food.
It’s also usually fine to take aspirin with paracetamol as long as you follow the dosage instructions.
It’s not recommended to take aspirin with ibuprofen unless you’ve been told you can do so by your GP or pharmacist, because they’re both NSAIDs. This means they have similar side effects, so taking them together can increase your risk of those side effects.
You could also combine painkillers with drug-free options like meditation and essential oils. These can help you relax, which could help you cope better with pain.
Take a look at our article on natural ways to help with pain for drug-free pain relief options and techniques.
Pain relief products
There are lots of pain relief options to choose from. Take a look at some of our products to work out which pain relief approach might be best for you.
Boots Pharmaceuticals Ibuprofen 5% w/w Gel†
Direct pain relief
This gel can be used for effective relief of pain in a specific area, like rheumatic and muscular pain and inflammation. It could also help provide relief from sprains and strains.* You can use this gel alongside paracetamol and drug-free pain relief. You won’t get any added benefit from using this product if you’re already taking ibuprofen tablets.
Boots Muscle Pain Relief Cream
This pain relieving cream can help provide relief from muscular and rheumatic pain or minor sports injuries.*†† You can use this gel alongside paracetamol and drug-free pain relief. You won’t get any added benefit from using this product if you’re already taking ibuprofen tablets.
Boots TENS Digital Pain Relief
Soothing, drug-free relief
This TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine sends mild electrical currents to help provide temporary relief from minor aches and pains, when used alongside painkillers. You can use this machine alongside paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin.
When it comes to pain relief products, it’s important not to take more than the pack label or Patient Information Leaflet tells you to. Speak to your pharmacist if you’re unsure how much you can safely take, or which medicines you can take together.
If your pain doesn’t get better, or it gets worse, speak to your GP for advice.
MORE ON PAIN RELIEF
How can I treat my migraine?
Manage your migraines & get on with your day
7 ways to help reduce pain
Try out these self-help steps