For most pain discomfort, we reach for NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
They are very effective, but "when people take inbuprofen, aspirin, ketpprofen
or naproxen sodium, they figure since those drugs are ITC so they must be safe. As
as result they overdo them, or don't pay attention to interactions with other
medications, "says Joseph Markenson, MD, professor at Weill Medical College in New
York City. "While the benefits of these drugs are enormous and real, so too are the
risks of gastrointestinal upset and bleeding.
With any OTC pain reliever, start low and go slow, says Dr. Fishman. He also suggests,
"Don't use aspirin as your first choice for pain relief. It is short acting as far
as pain goes, but long-acting in its impact on platelets and blood coagulation, and
has a greater risk of causing ulcers than ibuprofen for example ".
"You can protect yourself from ulcers related to NSAIDs," says Dr. Markenson. take
them with an OTC or prescription proton pump inhibitor (PPI) or opt for a pure analgesic
such as acetaminophen, which offer relief from headaches, muscle aches and fever, but
does not cause bleeding.
Acetaminophen poses little threat when taken as recommended, but liver toxicity is a
risk if you drink alcohol, have liver disease or are also taking an NSAID or any
additional medication that contains aetaminophen.
Make sure you tell your pharmacist and doctor what prescription meds you take, especially phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), rifampin (Rimactane, Rifadin), sulfinpyrazone (Anturane) and vitamin supplements.Surprised to find out that your "harmless "vitamin supplement can set off adverse reactions to medications? They can and plenty of research exists to prove that supplements can set off dangerous reactions when taken with OTC drugs.
"When it comes to decisions about pain relief", says Dr. Fishman, "you have to think about
what makes sense for you and with individual risks and benefits. Is the pain affecting
your quality of life? Do you really need a pain reliever to stay on track every day? Can you get
rid of your headache for example some other way? Proceed cautiously with OTC drugs ".
And don't ignore pain, ever. It is trying to tell you something. The bottom line is to
find out what the problem is and take corrective action before things get worse.