NSAIDs is short for “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs”. These drugs are widely used to treat many symptoms of pain people feel on a daily basis from diseases such as arthritis or chronic migraines. Worldwide there are over 70 million different prescription painkillers but NSAIDs are some of the most dangerous on the market for consumption. They are linked to possibly debilitating and deadly effects, especially in the elderly. In the United States alone over 100,000 people are hospitalized after taking NSAIDs. Of those 100,000 people, 15,000 of them suffered death.
Whatever the reason for popping that painkiller, here are a few do’s and don’ts you should know:
Don’t take the painkiller on an empty stomach: Most painkillers, especially NSAIDs, are known to cause ulcers and gastroenterological problems, leading to acidity. A meal before a painkiller helps protect the stomach from its ill effects.
Stay away from booze: Alcohol and pain medication should not be mixed. Side effects could vary from drowsiness to acidity. In some case it can even be fatal, leading to cardiac arrest or stroke.
Drink lots of water: When you are on any kind of medication, it is your kidney that bears the brunt. Although, painkillers help to reduce pain, they are difficult to flush out of the system. Therefore make sure you drink enough water while taking painkillers, this will help your kidney easily flush out the toxins associated with the medicine.
Do not crush or break the pill: Although it may seem like a good idea to have half a tablet or even one and a half, it has been proven by numerous studies, that breaking a pill is an inaccurate way of self-medication. This is because you cannot correctly gauge the amount of the medicine you are having, leading to overdosage or even inefficiency of the drug. Ideally, unless your doctor tells you to have half a pill, breaking it is a bad idea.
Do not make it a habit: Although over the counter painkillers are available, it is always best to consult your doctor if you need to take them for more than one or two days. It could lead to serious problems which might require immediate attention.
Ask your doctor about the side effects: A few painkillers can make you drowsy. Make sure you check the label on the package for any precautions you might have to take. Alternatively, you could just ask your doctor about any such effects the drug might have.
Let your doctor know about other medicines you are on: Painkillers can cause adverse reactions if taken in combination with some drugs you might be taking for heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, epilepsy etc. So, let your doctor know your medical history and the medicines you are on before being prescribed painkillers.
Do not take more than one painkiller at a time: Under a number of circumstances, you might be tempted to pop more than one painkiller at a time. On an average, a painkiller will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes show effect. The rate at which it works on your body varies, depending on how frequently you consume painkillers and the intensity of the pain. Be patient, and wait for the painkiller to be effective. Having more than one painkiller at a time can have drastic side effects such as kidney failure, abnormal blood clotting, bleeding into the stomach, cardiac arrest and even stroke. If the pain is unbearable, visit your doctor. He/she would be best equipped to guide you.
Beware of addiction: Since some prescription painkillers act like narcotics, they can be highly addictive in nature. There are a number of people who suffer from severe pain and cannot give up its use even after they have found relief. As a precaution, after regular use of a painkiller, make sure you slowly reduce the dosage till you can stop completely. This will help by slowly weaning your body off the drug. Some of the most addictive painkillers are fentanyl, butorphanol tartrate, meperidine, oxycodone HCl, hydrocodone, morphine sulphate and oxycodone HCL/acetaminophen.
Some side effects of NSAIDs are (but not limited to):
- Cardiovascular problems. Users of NSAIDs are up to 60% more likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems such as heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
- Hearing loss. Men using NSAIDs are 25% more likely to be diagnosed with hearing loss.
- Gastrointestinal Complications. NSAIDs users can suffer from internal bleeding, abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting. Over 7,000 people in the United States are hospitalized per year due to gastrointestinal problems from NSAIDs.
- Heart Failure. Those who take NSAIDs are at a 60% increased risk of congenital heart failure, attacks, and strokes.
- Allergic Reactions. Using aspirin and other NSAIDs are 30% more likely to have an increase in allergic reactions and asthma.
- The use of Aspirin and other NSAIDs are the cause of 80% of miscarriages in the United States.
While painkillers are the most convenient way to get rid of that nagging pain, there are several natural pain killers that you could try instead:
- Cold/ hot pack: In areas like the back, ankles or knees, cold or hot packs are highly beneficial. Just take a towel and dip it in hot or cold water. Apply this to the injured area. If this is too messy for you, you could try a hot water bag or an ice pack to make the pain bearable.
- Try some stretches: Every once in a while, you may experience pain because of stiffness in the soft tissues and muscles. Try some simple stretching exercises for relief.
- Foods that heal: Try adding foods like capsicum, ginger, clove, fish oil on your diet. These foods have very high anti- inflammatory and muscle relaxing qualities, and can help relieve pain.
There are many types of NSAIDs, but the most common are Diclofenac (Voltaren), Ibuprofen, Celecoxib (Celebrex), Naprosyn (Naproxen), and Acetylsalicylic Acid (Aspirin). Diclofenac increases your risk of cardiovascular conditions by up to 63%. It was released in 1978, making it one of the most well-known and most widely prescribed NSAID worldwide. It is the third most prescribed painkiller in Canada and studies show over six million people in England were prescribed Diclofenac. Ibuprofen was created in the UK in 1969 and is most commonly used by athletes and osteoarthritis sufferers. It is easier to consume because it is an over the counter drug. It is linked to miscarriages and problems with pregnancy. Celecoxib was created in 1998 to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This drug is linked to heart problems such as heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Naprosyn was originally released in 1973 and was prescribed to over 500,000 patients by 2006. This drug increases the risk of blood clots, which have many life threatening effects on the body. Acetylsalicylic Acid is the oldest and most well-known NSAID. This drug increases the risk of heart attacks in men ages 45-79 and can worsen effects in urticarial and angioedema in people suffering from asthma.
The good news is that there are ways you can eliminate NSAIDs from your life. Some natural ways of minimizing pain is to reduce grains and sugars because they elevate insulin and leptin levels. This causes inflammation in your body leading to pain and discomfort. Also, optimizing your production of vitamin D through regular and appropriate amounts of sun exposure can reduce pain. Intake appropriate amounts of OMEGA-3 fats like krill oil, for example. OMEGA-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body. Effective stress relief can also prevent pain. Last but not least, seeing a Chiropractor can greatly reduce the need for medications. Chiropractic treatments and adjustments can get your spine aligned correctly, helping prevent aching and discomfort in the body.