Can I purchase painkillers with an FSA?

Many of us have to deal with pain either regularly or once in a while. Whether you've pulled a muscle or need to treat arthritis, sprains, or painful periods, painkillers can provide much needed relief for you to get through the day.

Can I buy painkillers with an FSA?

Over-the-counter painkillers are eligible with a Flexible Spending Account. (Prescription painkillers are also eligible if you have a prescription). Knowing the different types of painkillers and what they do also allows you to be more aware of what you are putting into your body. There isn't a quick cheat sheet for what you should take for certain symptoms, and most of the popular pain relievers are incredibly similar. However, it is still helpful to unpack the nuances of different ingredients to help inform your purchasing decision.

What types of painkillers are eligible and what are the differences?

Aspirin used to be popular for aches and pains, but is rarely used for that at all anymore. It's used more typically for its platelet inhibition.

Ibuprofen is considered to be the most accessible pain relief medicine for day-to-day aches, pains, and fever. It is also an NSAID (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), which means it can help reduce swelling. It's sold as a generic just called "ibuprofen," but it's also the active ingredient in Advil, Motrin, Midol, Nurofen, Nufren, Caldolor, NeoProfen, Ibu and the original, Brufen. Most doses usually last 4-6 hours.

Naproxen is fairly new and a NSAID like ibuprofen. It is found in Aleve, Antalgin, Feminax Ultra, Midol Extended Relief, Nalgesin, Naprosin, etc. The only real difference between ibuprofen and naproxen is that naproxen lasts longer, about 7 hours, whereas ibuprofen lasts about 4-6 hours.

Acetaminophen is a milder pain reliever used for minor aches and pains. It's the active ingredient in Tylenol, Panadol, Feverall, Tempra, etc. It's also found in many cough and cold remedies but is not an NSAID like Ibuprofen and Naproxen. While it doesn't help with swelling, it is often used to bring down a fever. People who drink or have liver problems should avoid acetaminophen when possible to prevent damage to liver.

There are also a host of combination drugs like Excedrin that contain a mix of caffeine, acetaminophen, and aspirin and typically used for migraines and tension headaches.

All of these are available as generics, but some brand names offer different tablet styles, like liqui-gels or gel-capsules which can be absorbed more rapidly than tablets. Others coat their pills with sugar, add caffeine, or add other inactive ingredients.

FSA Store has a wide range of pain relieving medicines available for purchase.

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