Are you one of the many Americans who pop a pill for every minor ache or pain you may be feeling? I know I am. Any time I feel a slight headache coming on, a kink in my neck or sore muscle, I reach for the Advil. I buy the pills in bulk even and I’ve never thought twice about taking them until now.
“Ouch!” My grandmother, who had started to get up, clutched her hip and sank suddenly back into her chair. Across from her on the sofa, I looked up from my crossword puzzle with concern.
“Are you okay?”
She nodded as she struggled to get comfortable in her chair. I had made an unexpected trip to her small home in Florida after she had thrown her back out two weeks ago and had become temporarily bedridden. After four visits to the chiropractor, she had improved significantly, but she still experienced pain if she walked for more than a few minutes at a time.
“Do need anything? Do you want me to get you some Advil?” I asked, not convinced by her nodding. I remembered that when I had thrown my own back out the previous year, my doctor had prescribed regular doses of painkillers, not only because they made the pain manageable, but because they took the swelling down.
Grandma Carol shook her head, still wincing slightly. “No, thank you, I’m all right.”
I wondered if she was just trying to be heroic. She always had a hard time accepting that she was no longer twenty years old. Was this just another example of her bravado? However, when I asked her if she were sure, the explanation became clear.
“My doctor told me not to take…what did he call them?” She fumbled for the word for a moment, and then, finally recovering it, exclaimed, “oh yes, NSAIDS!”
“Really?” I asked, surprised. I had always thought of such painkillers as go-to medications for most types of discomfort. “Did he say why?”
“He said I can take them if the pain gets really bad and I don’t have any other options, but that I shouldn’t take them every day because they increase my risk of heart attack and stroke. He said even taking them regularly for a week isn’t a good idea. I can take Tylenol, but now that I’m sitting again I think I’m okay, dear.”
She dozed off in a moment or two, and I pulled out my laptop and did some research. Could taking painkillers actually be dangerous? I was surprised to read reports indicating that seniors who regularly took NSAIDs were fifty percent more at risk for heart attack, stroke, and even death, than those who did not. Apparently even healthy people can experience negative effects. I guess next time I have a headache, I’ll think twice before I pop a pill!
- Common painkillers can raise heart risk (telegraph.co.uk)
- Aspirin vs. Ibuprofen: 6 Pain Killers and Their Benefits (savings.com)
- News From AARP. Dangers of Common Painkillers September 27, 2011 (painisgone.wordpress.com)
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