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Are OTC Painkillers Safe?

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What Exercisers Should Know About OTC Painkillers

Stronger warnings may not be enough. OTC meds have "become part of the workout ritual," says Stuart Warden, PhD, director of physical therapy research at Indiana University in Indianapolis. Many women training for a sports event will pop a pre-workout pill as a preventive measure. Megan Lewis, 25, is preparing for her second marathon. On days that the college administrator in San Francisco logs 15 miles or more, she takes two 200-milligram tablets of ibuprofen before she hits the road. She believes they protect her from aches and inflammation, although prevention is not actually mentioned on the label. "There's no scientific evidence of prophylactic benefits," Warden says.

Like Jennifer Null, Megan has never talked with a doctor about taking these pills. "People assume that because the meds are over-the-counter, they have to be safe," says Mel Wilcox, MD, a gastroenterologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. That nonchalant attitude shows: Only about one person in five reads the directions on an OTC pain reliever label the first time she takes the medicine, and just 30 percent check the dosing instructions, according to a National Consumers League survey. And about one-quarter of people take more than the recommended dosage, a Roper Starch Worldwide survey found.

The risks of such behavior are significant. For starters, using NSAIDs before an activity can mask pain, causing you to unknowingly worsen an injury. Plus, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen block the action of enzymes that repair and strengthen tissue, so extended use can actually delay the healing of injuries like muscle and tendon tears. "Prolonged use of NSAIDs by athletes is simply not safe or effective," Warden says.

Next:  How Pain Meds Work


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amm3241 wrote:

maryrodriguez, I suggest Melatonin to help you sleep. I've always had issues falling and staying asleep. I take melatonin an hour before bed and it helps a lot and it's all natural. Find it in the vitamin section anywhere.

5/20/2010 07:39:25 PM Report Abuse
jparker73 wrote:

I have to agree with Kaylen Miller - what are recommended dosages and what are the alternatives. I have been taking ibuprofen/naproxen/acetaminophen - switching off every couple weeks between them, for years. The report on damage to the esophagus was particularly alarming as my brother died from esophageal cancer and although I have changed my diet to eliminate anything causing acid reflux, I have a little nagging pain when I swallow. Now I am worried.

5/20/2010 12:22:50 PM Report Abuse
slodee wrote:

Regarding Tylenol PM.. 5 yrs ago I was my Alz. stricken Fathers caregiver. At 10 PM, before I started the night time wrestling match I would take 2 Tylenol PMs, I was so wound up I couldnt sleep afterwards, This went on for a year. I was having PAINS for days, went for a sono and instead of my gallbldder as the Docs suspected,, My liver was Swollen and pushing on the gallbladder. It subsided after 2 weeks and i was advised back then about tylenol/liver connection and Ive never taken 1 again.

5/20/2010 08:23:17 AM Report Abuse
ashackelford5 wrote:

It's true,I have an ulcer from taking too many ibuprofen and Goody powders for headaches. Now, I can't take anything that has aspirin/ibuprofen/naproxen in it or else I am back at the ER. Please take heed of their warning!! It can happen pretty quickly if you take too much!

5/19/2010 01:52:28 PM Report Abuse
janettelabella wrote:

I don't usually take tablets, but pulled a muscle last week and have taken loads since then. My brother in law suggested I take four times the amount - now I'm going to change all that! Good timing for this article! thanks!

5/19/2010 01:09:39 PM Report Abuse

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