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5 Surprising Side Effects of Common Pain Relievers

Updated on May 13th, 2024

Save up to 88% on your medications

Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.D

Pain relief often seems as simple as taking an over-the-counter pill for headaches, muscle soreness, or period cramps. While these medications provide fast relief, recent studies have uncovered unexpected side effects that could make you think twice. Discover five surprising reasons to reconsider your go-to painkillers.

1. Ibuprofen: Gastrointestinal Bleeding and Heart Risks

Ibuprofen, known by brands like Advil and Motrin, is a popular choice for pain relief. However, a study led by epidemiology professor David Kaufman revealed that about one in ten ibuprofen users take more than the recommended daily amount. The major risks with ibuprofen are gastrointestinal bleeding and heart attacks. Excessive use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can damage the stomach lining, leading to internal bleeding, and can also increase the risk of heart attacks.

It's crucial to use ibuprofen moderately and stick to the recommended dose. Always opt for the lowest effective dose for pain management and seek advice from your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

2. Acetaminophen: Emotional Blunting

Acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, is seen as safer than NSAIDs because it causes less harm to organs such as the stomach, kidney, and liver. However, new research suggests that acetaminophen may dull emotional responses. While this could be helpful in some instances by easing uncomfortable experiences, it may also decrease empathy and cause emotional numbness. Though acetaminophen is usually safe for occasional use, be aware of its possible effects on your emotional state, especially with regular use. More research is needed on this topic.

3. Celecoxib: Heart Risks

Celecoxib, also known as Celebrex, is a prescription painkiller valued for its minimal gastrointestinal side effects. However, a recent study shows celecoxib carries similar heart risks to ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Long-term use of celecoxib may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

If you use celecoxib for chronic pain, monitor your use and consult your doctor regularly. After several months on the medication, discuss with your doctor whether to continue or plan an “exit strategy."

4. Aspirin: Increased Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes

Although aspirin is known for its blood-thinning benefits, recent research shows that its daily use can raise the risk of nonfatal heart attacks and strokes, even while potentially lowering the risk of early death for those with diabetes and heart issues.

If you are thinking of using aspirin daily for heart health, consult a physician. They can assess the balance of risks and benefits and customize your dosage.

5. Naproxen: Raised Blood Pressure

Naproxen, sold under the brand name Aleve, is a widely used NSAID for pain relief. Though effective, it can lead to salt and water retention, thereby elevating blood pressure. This potential side effect can be problematic for individuals with existing hypertension, complicating efforts to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

If you have high blood pressure or are on medication for it, it’s prudent to seek guidance from your healthcare provider before incorporating naproxen into your routine. They may recommend closer monitoring of your blood pressure or suggest alternative pain management strategies. Remember, all NSAIDs, including naproxen, have the potential to increase blood pressure, emphasizing the importance of moderation and careful use.

At RxLess, we are committed to affordable, safe medication through our discount program, which can save you up to 88% at pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. Follow our posts for health tips and cost-saving options!

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