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Taking painkillers frequently? Expert highlights alarming health risks

Updated on: 10 July,2023 12:40 PM IST  |  Mumbai
mid-day online correspondent |

Taking painkillers is a quick fix for many to get rid of even the most minor pain. Doctors, however, are warning against frequent use of these medications highlighting severe health risks they can induce

Taking painkillers frequently? Expert highlights alarming health risks

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Painkillers, also known as analgesics, work by targeting various pathways in the body to reduce pain perception. The mechanism of action and potential harm can vary depending on the type of painkiller.

The safety of consuming painkillers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or opioids, every day depends on various factors, including the type of painkiller, dosage, duration of use, and individual health conditions.

Painkillers are commonly used to manage joint pain, which can be caused by various conditions such as arthritis, injury, or inflammation. The specific painkillers prescribed or recommended for joint pain depend on the underlying cause, severity of pain, and individual factors. 

Here are some commonly used painkillers for joint pain:
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Acetaminophen (Paracetamol 
Topical Analgesics

It's important to consult with your Orthopaedic specialist to determine the most suitable painkiller and treatment approach for joint pain. They can assess the underlying cause, consider your medical history, and provide personalized recommendations for pain management.

Additionally, non-pharmacological approaches such as physical therapy, heat or cold therapy, assistive devices can be used.

However, it is best to avoid taking painkillers frequently to manage minor pain, Dr Sana Ahmed S Sayyad, specialist shoulder knee arthroscopy & sports injuries, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Ruby Hall Clinic, Wanowrie, Pune suggests. Below, he explains why taking painkillers must be avoided whenever possible unless specifically instructed by a healthcare professional. 

Dependency and tolerance: Over time, your body may become accustomed to the medication, requiring higher doses to achieve the same level of pain relief. This can potentially lead to a cycle of increasing dosage and reliance on the medication.

Side effects and health risks: As mentioned earlier, common side effects include gastrointestinal problems, kidney damage, and cardiovascular complications. Regular use of opioids can also lead to addiction and increase the risk of respiratory depression.

Masking underlying issues: Pain is your body's way of signaling that something may be wrong. By relying heavily on painkillers to mask the pain, you may be suppressing the symptoms of an underlying condition that requires proper diagnosis and treatment. It is important to address the root cause of the pain rather than relying solely on pain relief medication.

When painkillers are consumed on a daily basis, especially over an extended period, there can be potential harms to consider. Sayyad lists down a few health risks. 

Gastrointestinal issues: These medications can irritate the stomach lining, leading to issues like stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding, and gastritis.

Kidney damage: Prolonged use of these medications can reduce blood flow to the kidneys and cause kidney damage. This risk is higher in individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions and elderly patients.

Cardiovascular complications: They can elevate blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and interfere with the effectiveness of certain blood pressure medications.

Medication overuse headache: Frequent use of painkillers, such as over-the-counter analgesics or prescription opioids, can lead to a condition known as medication overuse headache. This occurs when the body becomes accustomed to the medication, and as its effects wear off, it triggers rebound headaches.

Also Read: Switching to healthy alternatives for snacks at workplace can boost energy as well as productivity

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