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What if you’ve been treating your pain for years with a medication that turns out to be one of the reasons that you are in pain. Medications are supposed to help not hurt, right? Unfortunately, some commonly used drugs can cause pain, even the ones available without a prescription. Drugs only mask inflammation, they do not correct the source. Many pain meds also cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This side effect can prevent long term healing. Some cause headaches, others cause joint pain. Wherever there is pain, a medication could be the root cause of it.

Both caffeine-containing medications and anti-inflammatory medications are available over-the-counter, without a prescription, without physician guidance. You might be unaware that your headache and stomach pain could be related to these medications that are under your control. Cholesterol-lowering drugs and opioids can also cause pain. These are only available with a prescription but your doctor might not connect your pain to these drugs. Be aware of these four types of medications:

  • Caffeine-containing medications (including Excedrin, Midol, Anacin): If you are experiencing headaches and you are also using a caffeine-containing medication more than a couple of times a week, your headaches might be caused by these medications. Caffeine is also a factor in what’s known as a medication overuse, or rebound headache. This can happen when you take too much of any kind of pain reliever or take it too often. When the medicine wears off, the pain comes back worse than before. When you combine caffeine with pain relievers this condition is more likely.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs: Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve): These OTC anti-inflammatory medication can also cause pain, usually in the form of stomach pain. These drugs can bother the GI tract in a number of different ways. Gastritis, heartburn, and bleeding ulcers are all problems that can develop from NSAIDs.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs: Thousands of people take medications to lower cholesterol levels. A portion of these people will also live a life with chronic pain as a result of these medications. The drug may affect certain enzymes present in muscle cells that handle muscle growth. This may cause muscle pain, fatigue and weakness. Tasks that were once simple, such as climbing stairs or walking, may now leave you uncomfortable and tired. It’s important to remember that these drugs can may also interact with other medications you take. As an example,  patients who take warfarin [Coumadin], a blood thinner, are at higher risk of bleeding from ulcers if they take OTC ibuprofen.
  • Opioids (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, morphine): Opioids (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, morphine): Most people know that painkillers can be addictive, but they don’t know that taking opioids over a long period of time may in fact increase a patient’s sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia). This happens because long-term use of opiate painkillers causes a decrease in your ability to tolerate pain. In fact, people taking opioids long term may keep having pain, or may see their pain increase, long after the original cause of pain has healed. The possibility that opioids, particularly at relatively high doses, may lead to increased pain has contributed to the controversy about opioid therapy for non-cancer pain. More about the treatment of pain with opioids: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2711509/

Before taking any OTC medication or dietary supplement, read the label, especially the dosage, frequency, and precautions sections.

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