Potential dangers of pain medication

According to the American College of Rheumatology, 70 million Americans are affected by arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders.

For many of these patients, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is the best way they can relieve the pain caused by their condition. However, some experts warn that these drugs may carry some serious risks and should be taken with extreme caution.

The Washington Post reports that a 2005 study revealed that one in four people who use NSAIDs daily were taking more than the recommended dosage. Doing this can increase a person's chance of developing some of the serious side effects of these medications, which include kidney disease, stomach ulcers and bleeding.

The news provider stated that for people who experience only mild pain, the recommended daily dosages of over-the-counter aspirin and ibuprofen should be enough to relieve symptoms. For people with chronic moderate to severe pain, the process of managing their discomfort becomes more difficult. Many people in this population will take these same kinds of medications, but will take higher dosages.

The Post suggested that people with osteoarthritis or other chronic conditions should talk to their doctor about their pain relief options, rather than self-medicating with over-the-counter NSAIDs. The news source warned readers of symptoms to look for that may show that they are taking too much of their medications.

"With any NSAID, take the lowest dose that brings relief, don’t exceed recommended doses (especially if you take it regularly), and don’t take it for long periods without consulting a doctor. Stay alert for signs of a stomach ulcer [such as] burning stomach pain and bloody, black or tarry stools," the news source, qutoed pain medications experts as saying.

People who experience chronic pain may consider exploring alternative options for reliving discomfort, such as massage therapy, acupuncture and yoga, all of which have been shown to help alleviate certain types of pain. 

First published on: August 26, 2011