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Adverse Effects from NSAIDs
No one wants to experience constant pain or discomfort. As a result, millions of people turn to medication to treat chronic aches and pains. According to a new study, however, those people may be adding to their health problems rather than solving them. The study revealed that pain relievers, specifically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke, in patients who take them regularly. The NSAID class of medications includes medications sold in the United States, like ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) and Celebrex. Medications made outside the United States, including Vioxx, Arcoxia, and Prexige, were also included in the study. So just how serious is the risk associated with these medications?

"These drugs have some use in the treatment of chronic pain," says Peter Jüni, MD, head of the division of clinical epidemiology at The University of Bern in Switzerland. "But they have safety issues. In the signals we saw, there was a two- to fourfold increase in the risk of myocardial infarctions [heart attacks], stroke, or cardiovascular death, and these are, clinically, considerable increases in risk."

Additional Concerns
Worse yet, out of the millions of people that take NSAIDs, many are seniors. Seniors also happen to be members of a group that are already likely to have other risk factors for heart disease. That fact is alarming to doctors. In addition, many doctors are wary of NSAIDs because they are also known to increase the risk of ulcers and serious bleeding in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.

Opioids Not a Safer Alternative
Doctors have increasingly turned to opioids as alternatives to NSAIDs, for older patients at risk for stomach or kidney problems. Those looking for a safer alternative, however, should look elsewhere. The problem is that the risks associated with opioids, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, are actually greater than those of NSAIDs. The study found that found that opioid users had an elevated risk of having a heart attack compared to users of NSAIDs. That same study also determined that opioid users had higher risks of fractures than those taking NSAIDs.

Viable Alternatives
With that said, you might be wondering, what can people do to relieve discomfort without putting their health in serious jeopardy? Experts say that weight loss and exercise should be the first step to combat aches and pains in joints and muscles. If that doesn’t work, experts recommend that patients consult their physician to find a medication best suited for their needs. Topical treatments may also relieve pain without the adverse effects. Yet another option for some patients is joint replacement surgery.

Chronic pain can be a constant irritant. Putting your health in serious jeopardy, however, is not the right solution. It is possible that you could use an NSAID without suffering any adverse effects, but it is also possible that you could experience a heart attack or stroke. While there is no perfect solution, it is best to follow the safer alternatives discussed above. Doing so will give you the best opportunity to relieve pain and not threaten your health in the process.

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