Over the Counter Medications for Pain

Portland Chiropractic

When pain is present due to an accident or injury, pain medications are one of the solutions we may turn to for relief. There are a variety of over the counter pain medications that can be helpful for pain management. While these medications reduce pain and discomfort, there are downsides as well. 

Common over the counter pain medications don’t act just on pain, but have effects throughout the body. An example is how NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) medications as well as acetaminophen will lower fevers. Decreased inflammation by NSAIDs can have widespread effects as well. 

NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

The NSAID group of medications decrease inflammation, which can be helpful for inflammatory pain, but may be less effective for pain that is not significantly associated with inflammation. Common over the counter NSAID medications include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin. When NSAID medications are very effective for pain, it may be helpful to look into the possibility of chronic or excessive inflammation and related conditions.

Inflammation is a response by the body to infection or injury mediated by chemical messengers. Signs of inflammation include pain, redness, loss of function, swelling, and heat. Inflammation is involved in the normal healing process and is needed for repair to damaged and injured tissues. Inflammation can become excessive or chronic, and last longer than the injury that caused the inflammatory response. This may result in chronic pain.

Medicine Bottle and White Pills

Pain medications do have side effects as well as potential complications and should be used with care.  Acetamenophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium raise blood pressure, which can be an issue for those with high blood pressure.  Acetamenophen is very hard on the liver and can cause damage in high doses. Additionally, liver damage with acetaminophen is not linear and occurs suddenly. For instance, someone may take up to the maximum dose, even for extended periods without problems, but when exceeding the limit that the liver can process, permanent damage and liver failure can immediately occur.

The NSAIDS such as ibuprofen can generally be taken in more frequent doses than acetaminophen. While NSAIDS can be hard on the liver, liver injury is not as sudden as acetaminophen can produce.

Aspirin can produce or increase bleeding, especially in the digestive tract. Aspirin should not be given to children due to the possibility of Reye Syndrome. Reye syndrome can occur in those 18 years of age and younger.

Reye Syndrome is a condition producing damage and swelling of the liver and brain. Damage from Reye Syndrome produces symptoms that may include diarrhea, rapid breathing, vomiting, unusual sleepiness, confusion, seizures, or loss of consciousness.

Chances of Reye Syndrome occurring drop with age. The likelihood of Reye Syndrome in someone who is 17 or 18 years old is much lower than in a 2 year old for instance. However, with the severity of Reyes Syndrome and the availability of alternative medications such as ibuprofen, it is best not to take the chance of using aspirin in someone younger than 19 years old.

Pills Background

Ibuprofen is a fairly safe NSAID medication. As an NSAID, it is particularly helpful in decreasing pain that is associated with inflammation. Like aspirin, ibuprofen can promote bleeding, but less so than aspirin. Ibuprofen is generally easier on the stomach than aspirin, but some still experience stomach irritation or have sensitivity to ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen should not be taken during pregnancy due to increasing risk of miscarriage as well as potential injury to the unborn baby.

Acetamenophen is found by many to be more effective for general pain than the NSAID medications. However, acetaminophen is not anti-inflammatory and thus is not as effective for pain related to inflammation as the NSAID medications are.

There are rare but quite severe side effects that could occur as a result of pain medication. With ibuprofen, Steven-Johnson syndrome is a very rare side effect that results in skin blistering and peeling off across the body. Allergies are possible as well with over the counter medications. Common over the counter pain medications are generally safe, but it is important to remember that they are not risk free, and use of these drugs should be minimized when possible.

senior couple walking on beach

Most pain medications slow healing. This applies not just to over the counter medications, but prescriptions ones as well, such as opioid medications. This can be a problem for injuries such as those sustained in an auto accident, as pain may be severe enough to require intervention, but pain medication may extend healing time. Chiropractic treatment is an option that can help manage pain and improve healing after an injury while avoiding the side effects and complications of pain medication. Chiropractic care encompasses a wide variety of treatment modalities including manipulation, massage, exercise, and stretching to name a few. Contact your Chiropractor if you have been involved in an auto accident.