“We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”

CDC Director Thomas Friedman

Pain can strike at any time. When it does, most of us will react to it by first stopping the activity that causes the pain. When this doesn’t work we head to the medicine chest and use an over the counter pill. If the pain persists or gets worse, we go to the doctor and get a prescription for something stronger. We might add a few steps such as heat and topical creams, but most of us follow the same basic pattern. It is not easy to know the right steps to take when you are in pain.

There is so much confusing information out there and it is changing rapidly. You have heard you should avoid the stronger pain killers because of their potential for addiction but even over the counter medicines have side-effects. Medicines you once trusted suddenly add harsh warnings to their labels. The commercial tells you the medicine is safe and effective but what does that fine print at the bottom of the screen say? With so much contradictory information, how can you be expected to make the best decision for your health, especially when you are in pain.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) products were widely used for the treatment of pain for years until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued one of their strongest warnings because of the potential for liver damage from use of medicines containing this drug. Even with this warning it is still one of the most used medications for lower back pain and osteoarthritis. However, a large study that was released last year shows mounting evidence of little to no effect from this medicine for back pain, knee pain, hip pain and osteoarthritis. (Kelly, 2015)

Shortly after the release of this study, the FDA released a strengthened warning for medications known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. It had been known for years that these medicines increased the risk for heart attack and strokes, however, the increased risk had been greatly underestimated. The warning emphasizes the increased risk applies to even short-term use of medications like Advil, Aleve, and Motrin and is seen in people with and without heart disease. (Doheny, 2015) It is also worth noting that these medications can interfere with certain prescription medicines such as blood thinners. Additionally, people might take more than one medicine containing an NSAID without realizing it. This can increase the dose and the likelihood of adverse events such as heart attack and stroke.

When pain persists, or following injuries, doctors often prescribe medicines such as OxyContin and Percocet. These drugs are prescription opioids and are in the same family as heroine. Just like heroine, they can be highly addictive. What many people don’t realize is prescription opioids actually account for more deaths in the United States than illegal opioids. Every day seventy-one people die from opioid overdose. Of those, forty-six deaths are caused by prescription pain killers! Opioids killed more than 47,000 people in 2014. (Car accidents resulted in just under 33,000 deaths during the same time period.) Remember, two thirds of the opioid related deaths were caused by prescription medicines! (Fox, 2015)

So what are you supposed to do? The pain relievers you thought were safe are being shown to have more short and long term side-effects. The pain killers your doctors prescribe have been shown to be highly addictive and are resulting in death instead of relief. How can you get pain relief without damaging your liver, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke or without running the risk of addiction?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines for the treatment of pain and the use of opioids. The guidelines advise the use of nonpharmacological treatments for patients with chronic pain. Physical therapy, exercise, manipulation and lifestyle changes including weight loss have been shown to alleviate and sometimes eliminate pain without the use of potentially addictive or harmful drugs. (Raghunath, 2016)

It is recommended that these less invasive methods be the go to prescription for chronic pain. Chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy and lifestyle changes are now the preferred methods for treating chronic pain without the use of opioids. In fact, a recent article in Time quoted Michael Schneider a professor of health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh who said “Chiropractors tend to have very high patient satisfaction rates and from a public health perspective, we’d see a lot fewer unnecessary tests and hospitalizations and opioid prescriptions if people visited chiropractors for their back and neck pain.” (Heid, 2016)

Even if you aren’t living with chronic pain yourself, please talk to your friends and relatives who are. They may not be aware of the potential dangers of the medicines in their homes. The pill they have been taking for years may be killing them. Think about it, when was the last time you read the entire label on a bottle of pain relievers?


David Thompson Health Educator/Community Outreach Director Action Medical


Find Pain Relief Without Pills

Works Cited

Doheny, K. (2015, July 10). FDA Strengthens Warning on NSAIDs and Heart Risk. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from Heart Health Center: webmd.com/heart/news/20150710/fda-warning-nsaids-heart_risks Fox, M. (2015, December 18).

Drug Overdose Deaths Hit ‘Alarming’ New Record in U.S., CDC Says. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/drug-overdose-deaths-hit-new-record-u-s-cdc-says-n482746 Heid, M. (2016, April 6).

You Asked: Are Chiropractors Legitimate? Retrieved April 18, 2016, from Time.com: time.com/4282617/chiropractor-lower-back-pain Kelly, J. C. (2015, April 1). Acetaminophen Ineffective for Back Pain, Knee/Hip OA. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from Medscape Medical News: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/842430 Raghunath. (2016, April 18).

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/arlington-heights/community/chi-ugc-article-new-cdc-opioid-guidelines-say-physical-therap-2016-04-12-story.html. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/arlington-heights/community/chi-ugc-article-new-cdc-opioid-guidelines-say-physical-therap-2016-04-12-story.html


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