What Is the Difference between Diclofenac and Paracetamol?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Diclofenac and paracetamol (acetaminophen) are both pain relievers, or analgesics, and can reduce fevers. They differ in numerous ways, however, such as in their drug classification and strength. Consumers will find other differences between these drugs in their ease of access to them, and the types of side effects or warnings that accompany them. Moreover, one or the other of these medications may be a better choice for treating certain illnesses.

Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.
Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Paracetamol is considered to be a mild analgesic and anti-pyretic, or fever reducer. Diclofenac also has pain-relieving and fever-reducing properties, but it belongs to a special class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This class of medicines tends to be more useful in controlling swelling from injury. Such anti-inflammatory properties are not very characteristic of paracetamol.

The generic version of paracetamol is known as acetaminophen.
The generic version of paracetamol is known as acetaminophen.

Undoubtedly, diclofenac is considered a stronger drug than paracetamol, though strength depends at least in part on dosage. The relative strengths of diclofenac and paracetamol affect access to these medications. Paracetamol is widely available by itself or in combination forms for purchase by the general public. The drug is also combined with opioids in prescription pain relievers. In most countries, diclofenac isn’t sold to consumers without a prescription and it is usually not combined with other medicines.

Another distinction between paracetamol and diclofenac is that they’re likely to be recommended for different uses. Typically acetaminophen treats mild fevers or pain, and it might especially be recommended for people who cannot take NSAIDS due to allergy or stomach sensitivity. In contrast, conditions that might warrant treatment with diclofenac include arthritis, injuries to the muscles, dental surgery, gall bladder dysfunction, and kidney or bladder stones.

Also, differing side effects may accompany the use of diclofenac and paracetamol. Diclofenac may cause mild to major stomach upset, is more likely to result in allergy, and can seriously irritate the stomach lining and result in ulcers over time. The biggest concern with acetaminophen is that overdose or persistent use of the drug with alcohol may result in irreparable liver damage.

Some other variations between diclofenac and paracetamol are worth mentioning. Paracetamol is more likely to be employed for minor, “first-aid” conditions and would probably be more commonly used to treat fevers. It’s also often much less expensive than diclofenac. Both drugs come with warnings about appropriate use, but in the case of diclofenac, physician guidance is also given during use because it is prescribed. Neither drug is “better” than the other, but advice from a physician may guide people toward the best choice for a specific medical condition.

Paracetamol is an antipyretic drug with fever-reducing properties.
Paracetamol is an antipyretic drug with fever-reducing properties.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@burcidi-- Like the article said, paracetamol is mild and even safe for children. It can be combined with other drugs and is effective for reducing fever and relieving pain. It's kind of like aspirin except that it doesn't work for inflammation like aspirin does. Aspirin is also an NSAID.

Diclofenac is a much stronger drug, usually used by adults only and can have numerous side effects. Paracetamol usually doesn't have any side effects. But Diclofenac is effective anytime there is inflammation involved.

So when deciding which of these to take, the question to ask is, is there inflammation? If there is, then diclofenac medicine is a better option.


@burcidi-- NSAIDs are really hard on the stomach. They can cause upset stomach, as well as increased acidity. Using NSAIDs too much can lead to stomach ulcers.

I think pain relievers that are not NSAIDs are easier on the stomach and have less gastrointestinal side effects.

But regardless, all medications have to be filtered out of the bloodstream by the kidneys so both diclofenac sodium and paracetamol will tire out the kidneys to some extent and shouldn't be used for the long term.


Oh OK, so diclofenac sodium is an NSAID and paracetamol is not. What's the different between NSAIDs and other pain relievers?

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