The pros and cons of pain relievers

September 21, 2016

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Lauren
Lead Copywriter

We don’t know about you, but we would be lost without our industrial-size bottle of ibuprofen.

Whether it’s a headache, lower back pain or fever, popping an ibuprofen seems to always be a magical cure.

But is taking too much ibuprofen a bad idea?

We looked into the pros and cons of over-the-counter pain relievers, or NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), to see what the answer is.

The most common over-the-counter NSAIDS are:
-Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB)
-Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, Excedrink)
-Naproxen (Aleve)

Tylenol is NOT an NSAID. Though it helps with pain, it does not help with inflammation. There are prescription NSAIDS such as celecoxib (Celebrex) and diclofenac (Voltaren), which we will lightly touch on.

Pros
Managing chronic pain or inflammation: Well, duh. Of course NSAIDS help manage pain! That’s the whole reason for their existence. Ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen and other pain relievers can help with everything from arthritis to headaches, fever to menstrual pains. For many people, chronic pain can have a debilitating effect on their mental, emotional and physical well-being, and pain relievers help them get through the day.

Prevent blood clotting: Aspirin can help prevent heart attacks by preventing blood clotting which could lead to death. However, aspirin is only good for people who need it, such as people who have already had strokes or heart attacks, or are at risk of having a heart attack. For people not at risk, there are disagreements between doctors whether the potential for gastrointestinal bleeding outweighs the risk of having a heart attack.

Cons
Stomach bleeding and ulcers: This is a scary fact: “Side effects of NSAIDs hospitalize over 100,000 people and kill 16,500 in the U.S.” Damaging the gastrointestinal tract is one of the most common side effects of taking NSAIDS. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen to you. It’s important not to take too many pain relievers, and you should consult with your doctor about what the right amount is.

Heart attacks, strokes & high blood pressure: In 2005 and reiterated in 2015, the FDA warned that NSAIDS such as Celebrex and Voltaren could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. If you take NSAIDS, don’t freak out yet; the FDA states that the risk is higher for people with heart disease and those who take higher doses over a long period of time. For more information, read the full report here.

Erectile dysfunction: Studies have shown that taking NSAIDS can increase a man’s possibility of developing erectile dysfunction. In a study published in the Journal of Urology, researchers discovered that men who took NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, three times a day for three months had twice the likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction.

Kidney damage: According to the National Kidney Foundation, NSAIDS such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen “can cause chronic kidney disease known as chronic interstitial nephritis.” Taking pain-relieving pills can be particularly dangerous for people with compromised kidneys. As for aspirin, it is not as damaging to the kidneys UNLESS a person takes too large of a dosage.

Our Takeaway:
Yes, there are many cons associated with using NSAIDS, but that’s if you use too much. NSAIDS can be a great way to manage chronic pain. If you’re worried that you are taking too much, discuss it with your doctor to ensure you’re taking the right amount.

(P.S. We are not doctors, but we did our best research from reputable sites; you should always consult your doctor about medication.)