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How to Manage Pain With NSAIDs Safely

How to Manage Pain With NSAIDs Safely

Misusing over-the-counter painkillers has shown to raise the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Approximately 39 million Americans suffer from migraines and headaches. On top of that, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain, so it’s no surprise that there are 30 billion doses of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and celecoxib annually. While these headache-relieving drugs can help provide fast reprieve, they do have side effects, and they can cause health risks if taken improperly.

According to a study from Boston University School of Medicine, many adult ibuprofen users make health-threatening mistakes when taking them. For starters, 15 percent of users took more than the maximum recommended dose in a one-week period. Overdoses also occurred from taking more than the recommended dose daily, using two different NSAIDs at the same time and failing to leave time in between doses.

The bottom line: Follow NSAID instructions carefully, take only the recommended dose, and drink at least eight ounces of water per pill. Never use a NSAID for pain for more than 10 days without talking with a doctor. If you live with chronic pain, consult your doctor about developing a pain management program. Your pain plan could include physical and cognitive therapy, meditation and the safe use of pain-relieving technology and OTC and prescription medications. Misuse of the medication can increase the inherent risks of NSAIDs, which include gastrointestinal distress, internal bleeding and ulcers, as well as an increased chance of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. 

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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