Safety Tips for Using Over-the-Counter Pain Medications

As the opioid epidemic in America continues to claim lives, many people are turning to other ways to treat their pain. For example, many people with arthritis and other musculoskeletal pain may be advised to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This class of drugs includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) and Celebrex.

But while NSAIDs are safer overall than opioid medications and can be quite effective without the risk of addiction, they do have their own dangers. For example:

  • Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine cautioned that NSAIDs can have serious side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • The American Heart Association warns that NSAIDs can worsen heart failure by causing sodium and fluid retention, as well as interacting with diuretics to make them less effective.
  • The European League Against Rheumatism found that a reported connection between arthritis and heart disease was most likely caused by taking NSAID medications.

There’s no doubt that NSAIDs help many people. But what should they do to protect their health while taking these drugs? Here are four steps to take:

Keep track of what you’re taking. The Boston University research team found that many patients take more than the recommended dose of ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. Patients may take the drug too often, take more than the recommended dose at one time, or take more than one NSAID medication at a time. Read the label to be sure you understand the recommended dose and how you should take an NSAID drug—how often should you take it, and what dose? With food? Is it safe to drink alcohol? Then keep track with a chart, or use a pillbox.

Talk to your healthcare provider. It’s important to have your doctor or pharmacist review your medications at least once each year. Did you know that this includes not only prescription drugs, but also over-the-counter medications such as NSAIDs? Ask your doctor if you should be taking NSAIDs, and accurately report the amount that you take. Ask about side effects you should watch for. Following your doctor’s recommendation is the most important thing you can do to be safe while taking these drugs.

Learn about different ways to manage pain. Today, doctors have a wider array of techniques to help patients manage pain, including:

  • Physical therapy
  • Counseling and education
  • Mind-body practices such as yoga and tai chi
  • Lifestyle recommendations, especially exercise

Get help with medication management. If a senior has physical limitations that make it hard to open pill bottles, or memory loss that makes it hard to keep track of doses, seek help from a family member or friend, or the Charlesgate staff.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all the medications you take.

 Source: IlluminAge AgeWise

Categories: Senior Health