Are you taking too many pills?
A recent article in Fitness magazine touched on a trend that has become more and more common- over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications taken with the misconception they are risk free. OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofin (advil or motrin), naproxen (aleve), and acetaminophen(tylenol) are taken by an estimated 175 million Americans yearly and can cause real damage when taken incorrectly.
Overuse of NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can cause bleeding ulcers, may increase blood pressure, and can cause kidney problems. Acetaminophen may lead to liver failure. Many individuals take these OTC drugs prior to a workout to mask pain, any may be unknowingly injuring themselves by pushing through pain caused by serious problems like muscle tears and ligament sprains. Plus, NSAIDS like ibuprofen block the production of enzymes that repair tissue, and may delay healing following an injury. It is also important to stress that OTC drugs have never shown scientific evidence of prophylactic (preventative) benefits.
While there are negative side effects associated with OTC drugs, they can be helpful in short-term situations when taken at the appropriate dosage. You should always check with your doctor if you question the appropriate amounts, as your activity levels and other medications will influence the reactivity of the drugs.
For those that choose to avoid pain medication at all costs, there are some natural ways to ease those aches and pains:
- Fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most effective supplements on the market today for a couple of reasons. They have a natural anti-inflammatory property that may reduce pain and inflammation while supporting cardiovascular function. A good quality fish oil supplement will improve your health and carries a low risk of adverse reactions.
- Glucosamine. This is a naturally occurring compound that helps prevent joint degeneration, and some studies have shown it to ease inflammation and joint swelling as well as ibuprofen.
- Ice. It may seem brainless, but ice is the best remedy for activity induced pain. Applying ice immediately following activity will prevent inflammation from building in the area, and will almost always decrease pain after the fact. You will initially feel the muscles tighten, but will likely wake with much less pain the next morning.
- Heat. It’s the most common question I get in my office. “Which is better, ice or heat?” My general rule is as follows: Ice 10 minutes on/20 minutes off 3-6 times per day for the first 72 hours post injury to decrease inflammation. Once the initial injury has subsided, it is a good idea to alternate heat and ice to increase circulation to the injured area, always finishing with ice (think 4-6 times alternating 10-20 minute intervals). If the injury is chronic and seems to be caused from tight muscles, heat will help increase blood flow to the area and may help with tension related pain. A hot shower or bath followed by light stretching is a great way to use heat as a treatment.
- Sleep. This is when your body repairs itself, and without it your body can stay in a chronic state of inflammation and pain.
- Last but not least, do not forget the power of hydration. Anytime you have an injury, whether minor or major, your body needs extra water to flush waste out as the body heals. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces as a baseline, adding more depending on your activity level or where you live (dry climates create a need for more water).
Questions about safe alternatives for pain management?
Call our Tempe chiropractic office for a consultation: (480) 440-4511
Dr. Bobbie Bennett works with patients of all ages and walks of life. She enjoys helping her patients find freedom from pain and gain increased mobility so they can live their life without limitations.