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How Do I Know Which NSAID Will Work for My Chronic Pain? continued...

Your doctor should know all the medicines you take. Your doctor can advise you if the NSAID may interact with other medications you take. Also, your doctor can suggest the right dose for you. As you continue to take the medicine, your doctor can also monitor its effect, and raise or lower the dose as needed.

Before recommending a specific pain pill, your doctor will want to consider:

  • your medical history
  • past surgeries
  • your current health concerns
  • allergies and past reactions to drugs
  • other medicines you take
  • the functioning of your liver and kidneys
  • the drug's expense
  • your overall treatment plan and goals

When you talk with your doctor, be sure to ask about anything you don't understand. 

Are There Side Effects and Special Cautions Associated With NSAIDs?

Specific side effects vary from drug to drug. For instance, some NSAIDs are harsher on the stomach than others. But there are certain side effects that are common to NSAIDs as a class. Serious side effects include:

  • bleeding problems
  • damage to the stomach and small intestine lining that can lead to ulcers
  • kidney disease
  • elevated blood pressure
  • muscle cramps
  • hearing problems

Other side effects include:

  • dizziness or headache
  • nausea
  • excess gas
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • extreme tiredness or weakness
  • dry mouth

Your doctor or your pharmacist can give you specific information about the side effects of the particular drug you are taking.

In addition to side effects, there are serious health risks associated with NSAIDs. It is important to talk with your doctor before taking NSAIDs if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are allergic to aspirin or any other pain reliever.
  • You have more than 3 alcoholic drinks a day.
  • You have stomach ulcers or bleeding in your digestive tract.
  • You have liver or kidney disease.
  • You have heart disease.
  • You take blood-thinning medicine or have a bleeding disorder.

Although aspirin taken in low doses with a doctor's supervision can help protect some people from heart attack, certain NSAIDs can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. They can also interfere with blood pressure medicine, making it less effective.

Children and teenagers under the age of 18 should not take aspirin unless their doctor says to. There is a risk of Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal disease. 

So Should I Take an NSAID to Manage My Chronic Pain?

Anti-inflammatory drugs have a long history of success. Many people are able to manage their chronic pain quite well using NSAIDs as part of their management plan. For most, side effects, if any, are minor. But all medications have associated risks. All medications also have benefits. Deciding to take an NSAID or any medication involves weighing the risk against the benefit.

The bottom line: talk with your doctor. Your level of risk depends on the state of your overall health. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not an NSAID would be right for you.

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