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Safe Use of OTC Pain Relievers

Rule #4 for Over-the-Counter Painkillers: Talk to Your Doctor continued...

•         Take blood-thinning medicine such as Coumadin or have a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia

•         Have three or more drinks containing alcohol every day

Whenever you’re considering taking an OTC medication, check with the pharmacist about potential interactions with other medicines you take.

“A lot of people are reluctant to call the doctor,” says Feinberg, “especially these days, with money worries. They go in and pick up something in the drug store aisle. That’s a real concern.” If you check with the pharmacist, he or she can identify potentially dangerous drug interactions or other problems -- or tell you when it’s essential to see a doctor.

Rule #5 for Over-the-Counter Painkillers: Give Non-Drug Approaches a Chance

The reassuring news is that many people can safely take over-the-counter pain medications for chronic pain, as long as they’re vigilant. “If they’re followed regularly by a physician and have no underlying liver disease or other problems, most people can safely take around 3,000 milligrams (3 grams) of acetaminophen,” says Berenger. To make that dose go as far as possible, he encourages his patients to add other non-drug approaches, like regular exercise, massage, and better sleep habits. Capsaicin cream can be useful for chronic shingles pain. Vitamin D may ease some forms of musculoskeletal pain. “What the latest warnings underscore is that we’ve relied too heavily on over-the-counter pain relievers.”

Rule #6 for Over-the-Counter Painkillers: Stay Tuned

With official recommendations under review and likely to change, it’s important to keep informed on the subject of pain medications. That’s especially true if you use them regularly. Read the directions for use each time you buy an over-the-counter pain medication. The warning labels and directions are likely to undergo revisions in coming months.

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Reviewed on July 02, 2009

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