Skip to content

Pain Management Health Center

Everyday Pain Relief: High Blood Pressure

Many common over-the-counter drugs taken for pain can push your high blood pressure even higher. Here's what you need to know.
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Although popular prescription medications for arthritis pain, such as Vioxx and Bextra, have been removed from the market because of health risks, you may not realize that many over-the-counter pain relief drugs also pose some serious risks.

That's especially true for people with high blood pressure. Many over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers can push your blood pressure higher. They can even be dangerous. Since high blood pressure has no symptoms that you can feel, you may be hurting yourself without realizing it.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Use Preventive Meds

If migraines are frequent or interfere with your life, it may be time to discuss prevention with your doctor. Preventive medications can help stop migraines or reduce their intensity. See if they might help you. Conditions: Migraine Symptoms: headaches, migraine, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, aching, pain, pain with movement, throbbing pain, aura, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, vision changes, fainting, lightheadedness, sweating a lot, neck stiffness, irritability, restlessness, ...

Read the Use Preventive Meds article > >

"People with high blood pressure don't know the risks of taking some of these painkillers," says Nieca Goldberg, MD, a cardiologist and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. "They assume that anything you can buy over the counter is safe. But these drugs are chemicals that can cause side effects."

The problem isn't only with OTC painkillers. In fact, many remedies for colds, sinus problems, and even heartburn contain the same ingredients.

If you have high blood pressure, keeping it under control is crucial. So, before you grab a bottle of pain reliever for your next backache, learn some dos and don'ts.

How Do Pain Relief Drugs Work?

In a certain way, all pain is in your head. When we feel pain, it's the result of an electrical signal being sent from the nerves in a part of your body to your brain.

But the whole process isn't electrical. When tissue is injured (by a sprained ankle, for instance), the cells release certain chemicals in response. These chemicals cause inflammation and amplify the electrical signal coming from the nerves. As a result, they increase the pain you feel.

Painkillers work by blocking the effects of these pain chemicals. The problem is that you can't focus most pain relievers specifically on your headache or bad back. Instead, it travels through your whole body. This can cause some unexpected side effects.

What Are the Risks for People with High Blood Pressure?

For people with high blood pressure, some types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be risky. They include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and ketoprofen, the active ingredients in medicines like Advil and Aleve.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
 
illustration of nerves in hand
Slideshow
lumbar spine
Slideshow
 
Woman opening window
Slideshow
Man holding handful of pills
Video
 
Woman shopping for vegetables
Slideshow
Sore feet with high heel shoes
Slideshow
 
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
man with a migraine
Slideshow