Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen have revolutionized the way Americans treat minor pain.
Today, many men and women avoid trips to the doctor and choose to self-medicate instead. While nonprescription pain relievers can play a role in relieving pain, some studies show they’re being used too often. In fact, according to one recent report, about 80 percent of Americans use over-the-counter pain medicines on a regular basis in the hope of some knee pain relief.
One of the problems with over-the-counter medicines is that because we can buy them without a prescription, many people think that means they’re safe. But the fact is, these medicines are still drugs, and that means they can have a lot of bad effects if they’re not used responsibly. Knee pain is one of the most common types of pain among both men and women, and it becomes a lot more common as we get older. If you’re using nonprescription medicines for knee pain treatment at home, here are some of the problems to look out for.
The Risks of OTC Pain Relief Products
For many people with chronic knee pain, the most pressing question is, how do you get rid of knee pain fast? And all too often, the answer comes in the form of an over-the-counter pain medicine. In one recent study, researchers found about 15% of people who use nonprescription pain relieverstake more than the recommended maximum dosage. That means they’re setting themselves up for some really serious health consequences, including heart attacks, liver failure and death. What’s more, the same study found most of that 15% were people who deal with chronic pain on a regular basis, which means they’re taking those excessive doses routinely, day in and day out.
Side effects of over-the-counter pain relievers can range from mild to severe, depending on the specific medication, the dose you’re taking and your current medical history. One of the most common side effects is stomach upset. Even coated tablets designed to reduce tummy problems can still cause stomach pain and bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Like other medicines, most over-the-counter pain products are processed by your kidneys or liver. When you take higher-than-recommended doses, that’s a huge strain on these organs. And over time, it can result in permanent damage, organ failure and death. Other medicines affect your blood pressure or your heart activity, especially if you already have a problem with your cardiovascular system.
What about knee pain supplements? Are they healthier because they’re advertised as being “natural”? Not necessarily. These supplements still need to be processed by your body, and that means they can cause damage, just like more traditional drugs. Plus, many supplements cause dangerous and even life-threatening interactions with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. Many supplements haven’t been adequately tested in clinical trials, so it can be difficult to know what side effects they can cause.
Beyond these side effects, over-the-counter knee pain medicines pose another serious problem. When you take a pain medicine to relieve your symptoms, you might wind up postponing medical care your knees need to stay healthy. By masking the pain, it’s easier to ignore it, and that means there’s a much higher chance that underlying issue will get a lot worse. In fact, by delaying medical care, you can increase the chances you’ll need surgery or other serious interventions. If your pain is related to an infection, you could wind up needing an amputation.
Treatment at Home: First Things First
So what is the best pain relief for knee arthritis and other types of knee pain? The answer is, it depends. It’s true, not every type of knee pain requires invasive or intensive medical treatments. Some mild, minor knee pain can be successfully treated conservatively, with a combination of home care and professional care. And in some cases, taking an over-the-counter medicine might be part of that care plan.
But if you have chronic or recurrent knee pain or if your knee pain is sudden or severe, you need to find out what’s causing your pain first, before trying to treat it on your own. Having a medical evaluation first means lets Dr. Van Thiel customize your treatment so you can get relief as fast as possible. Plus, getting the right treatment quickly reduces the chances that the underlying problem will get worse over time. And finally, because Dr. Van Thiel begins your evaluation by reviewing your medical history, he can also make sure your treatment doesn’t interfere with existing health conditions or other medicines you might be taking.
Start Treating your Knee Pain
If you’ve got knee pain, there’s a very good chance it can be treated conservatively, without surgery. But to get knee pain relief fast — and to prevent further joint damage — you need to have your knee evaluated as soon as possible. Scheduling an evaluation at our Rockford or Algonquin offices is simple: Just give us a call at 779-774-1110 or use our online form and request an appointment. It’s one of the wisest steps you can take to help your knees stay healthy for years to come.