Understanding Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Understanding Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are some of the most prescribed and frequently used over-the-counter (OTC) medications. But how much do you really know about these drugs and the impact they can have on your body?

The three most commonly used OTC NSAIDs are ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin. NSAIDs work by preventing an enzyme (a protein that triggers changes in the body) from doing its usual function. Blocking this chemical reaction has both positive and negative impacts on the body like reducing swelling and pain but also possibly harming the stomach lining. NSAIDs aid in pain relief and swelling after exercise and work best when used in moderation.

Naproxen, ibuprofen and aspirin work great as far as helping with pain, fever and reducing inflammation. These medications need to be taken in moderation to avoid stomach bleeding, ulceration and adversely affecting kidney function especially for those who are at risk of having kidney problems or who have taken the medication for too long.

Acetaminophen is one of the most popular pain relievers and fever reducers, but it has no anti- inflammatory effects. A number of other OTC and prescription drugs contain acetaminophen, like multi-symptom cold products and prescription pain medications. Unintentionally over-using these products along with OTC acetaminophen can cause issues with the liver. According to the Food and Drug Administration, it’s one of the most common causes of acute liver failure in the U.S.

The best thing to do when taking any OTC pain reliever is to take it with food. Food works as a buffer to the stomach from NSAIDs to help protect it. Withmost medications, it’s also good to take them with a full glass of water to ensure complete dissolution and absorption in the system. Taking these drugs without water or food on your stomach can concentrate the medication to a specific area in your stomach, and that can be more problematic.

For neck pain from sleeping bad, sitting at your desk all day or bad posture, heat and ice on the sore area and some stretching can alleviate a lot of the discomfort. Use heat to loosen the muscle then ice to reduce the inflammation.

These medications shouldn’t replace things like proper nutrition, stretching and hydration. Ice is really one of the best things you can use to overcome an injury. It’s a great, natural way to fight inflammation.

Kelli B 💻

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