4 Surprising Ways Your Go-To Painkiller Could Be Risking Your Health

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Motrin, Advil, Aleve, and others are commonly used to control inflammation and pain from injuries and other conditions. Although they are available over the counter, there are some significant safety concerns to consider when using NSAIDs.

#1 Gastrointestinal Bleeding

NSAIDs rank first among commonly prescribed drugs for serious adverse reactions. Gastrointestinal bleeding caused by NSAIDs has claimed more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths in America. The risk of gastrointestinal bleeding increases from the first day of use due to impaired platelet aggregation. NSAIDs damage the lining of the stomach and intestines, reduce gastric mucosal blood flow, and interfere with the repair of superficial injury. Combining NSAIDs with alcohol, tobacco, other anticoagulants or bleeding problems, advanced age, or liver disease can increase the risk of bleeding.

#2 Heart Attack and Stroke Risk

Using NSAIDs has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. This risk increases slightly in patients with or without heart disease or risk factors as early as within the first weeks of using an NSAID. It increases with longer use and higher doses. Patients treated with NSAIDs after a first heart attack were found to be more likely to die within the first year after the heart attack compared to those not treated with NSAIDs following their first heart attack. There is also an increased risk of heart failure with NSAID use.

#3 Kidney Health

For people over the age of 65, NSAID use more than doubles the risk of acute kidney injury in the first 30 days of use. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 3-5% of new cases of chronic kidney failure each year may be caused by the overuse of these painkillers. Continued use of the problem drug makes kidney disease worse.

#4 Bronchospasm

A potentially fatal condition called aspirin-induced asthma, which causes bronchospasm, can occur in 8-20% of adult asthmatics after taking NSAIDs or aspirin. Symptoms include a rapid onset of malaise, sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, and productive cough, followed by asthma and NSAID/aspirin sensitivity.

Topical NSAIDs, which are applied directly to the skin, are a safer option for pain management. These are most suitable for treating pain near the skin’s surface, such as in fingers, hands, elbows, feet, or toes. When in doubt, consult with your doctor about the use of over-the-counter pain relievers.