Whether you have a toothache or a headache, taking non-prescription pain medication may turn the tide of pain from terrible to tolerable.
But there are so many over-the-counter pain medications, choosing the right over-the-counter pain medication can be confusing – choosing the wrong one can lead to bad consequences.
“Over one-third of Americans suffer needlessly from pain,” Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of Real Cause, Real Cure, tells Newsmax Health. “Statistics show that roughly 8 out of 10 of us routinely reach for OTC pain pills to relieve headaches, backaches, sore muscles, fevers and colds. But these so-called safe medications also account for serious gastrointestinal distress, sending over 200,000 people to the hospital each year.”
It’s important not only to choose the right pain meds for your condition, but to honor the dosage, says Teitelbaum. Here are the top OTC medications and their benefits and risks:
Benefits: This is perhaps the safest of all pain meds, says Teitelbaum. It eases pain and lowers fever. Good for headache and arthritis pain.
Risks: Generally safe and shouldn’t cause upset stomachs. Could cause liver damage over time. Adults should not exceed 4,000 milligrams a day. Check other medications you may be taking to see if they include acetaminophen.
Benefits: This types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) reduces fever, pain and inflammation. Good choice for menstrual cramps, headaches, toothaches, backaches, arthritis, muscle sprains and gout.
Risks: NSAIDs, with the exception of aspirin, can raise the risk of heart attacks or strokes by a whopping 40 percent. This translates to 50,000 deaths from these medications in the United States each year, says Teitelbaum. It can also cause stomach bleeding accounting for thousands of bleeding ulcer deaths each year.
Benefits: This NSAID also works well with pain, relieving inflammation and fevers. Good choice for colds, menstrual cramps, backaches, toothaches and arthritis.
Risks: The risk for stomach problems is the same as with the other NSAIDs, but naproxen may be a safer choice than ibuprofen for people at risk of heart disease according to some studies.
Benefits: Its pain-relieving origins go back for over 2,000 years. It’s a good choice for headaches, toothaches colds and fever and may also slow blood clots from forming. Many doctors recommend taking one aspirin a day to help lower the risk of strokes and heart attack in certain individuals.
Risks: If you take daily aspirin, wait at least 30 minutes before taking any other NSAIDs since they make the aspirin less effective if taken together. Aspirin can also cause stomach upset and should not be given to children or teenagers who have any sort of flu or viral infection. Aspirin has been linked to a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome in the younger population.
The key is finding which medication is best for you, says Teitelbaum. Some alternative pain relievers are yoga, acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
“Certain herbal mixes have been shown to be more effective and much safer that the OTC pills,” notes Teitelbaum. “An especially effective one is Curamin, which in head-on studies was more effective than standard arthritis medication in relieving pain and caused zero deaths. Another excellent medication is End Pain. These herbals are also safe taken along [with] other medication.”