Motrin and Tylenol are both over-the-counter medications that relieve mild to moderate pain. However, Motrin and Tylenol are two separate types of pain relievers with many differences between them.
Motrin is a form of ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Tylenol is a brand name for a medication known as acetaminophen, a non-opioid analgesic.
Both Motrin and Tylenol work by limiting the actions of prostaglandins, chemicals in your body that cause you to feel pain. Motrin suppresses the actions of prostaglandins throughout your body, while Tylenol only inhibits the chemicals' effects upon your brain and spinal cord, explains Tufts University.
In addition to relieving pain, Motrin also relieves inflammation, while Tylenol does not, reports the Mayo Clinic. Both drugs can be used to lower fevers, however.
NSAIDs like Motrin pose a risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and heart attacks or disease, warns the Mayo Clinic. The largest risk associated with Tylenol is that of liver damage, cautions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Because of its effects upon the liver, patients with a history of alcoholism should not take Tylenol, according to the Mayo Clinic. Patients with stomach ulcers, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, aspirin allergies or diabetes may not be able to safely use Motrin.