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Think twice before you reach for those pain medications

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Think twice the next time you reach for medication

If I hurt, I can just take a pill to make it go away. I can buy painkillers anywhere off the shelf, so what’s the worry?

As Chiropractors, we hear this sentiment all the time, and it concerns us for two reasons.

First, pain is typically a symptom of a greater problem. If you are just treating the symptom, you are not addressing the root cause. If that cause is an issue in your spine, ignoring it can lead to arthritic degeneration of bones and discs that will eventually impair your mobility, but more importantly, it can also lead to pressure on your nervous system which can greatly affect the function in your body, possibly leaving you dependant on an increasingly large cocktail of medications down the road.

Second, there are risks associated with the regular use of these pain medications. Just because you can get something “off the shelf” does not mean that they are 100% safe.

Why are we bringing this up?

Because Canadians already have the dubious distinction of being world leaders when it comes to popping pills for pain, and many of our “favorites” are under increasing scrutiny for their risky side effects (i.e. Advil, Tylenol).

After the common cold, back pain is the most common reason why people visit their family doctors. 15% to 29% of our population experiences chronic pain, according to the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse. The International Narcotics Control Board ranks Canada as the world’s second-largest per capita consumer of prescription painkillers after the United States. One of the biggest concerns with chronic pain is that it does not go away on its own. If the cause is not found and/or corrected, research shows that you will still have it years later! If someone chooses to address the chronic symptoms with medications for all those years, they are a lot more likely to experience an unwanted side effect from these medications.

The risks of addiction

Let’s take a closer look at some of these medications, starting with opioids. These are the ones that are usually accessible only by prescription, in part due to their addictive nature. They include morphine and codeine, and brands like Vicodin and OxyContin.

According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), use of opioids typical of prescription painkillers in workers compensation cases can lead to poorer outcomes, longer periods of disability, increased risk of surgery, greater chances of prolonged narcotic use, and higher medical costs.

But even acteminophen, easily available off the shelf and found in about 470 different products (such as Tylenol), is getting a fresh look from Health Canada.

The risks of liver damage

As reported by the CBC in July, Health Canada says there are about 4,000 hospitalizations a year in this country due to acetaminophen overdoses. It is considered a leading cause of all serious liver injuries, including liver failure.

Consumer education is critical. People simply must take control of their health and use any medication or supplement wisely. That means reading that product information pamphlet that usually gets tossed in the trash. The onus must also be on product manufacturers to ensure key information about the product is easy to find, read, and understood.

Even so, Health Canada is investigating whether the safest course in acetaminophen’s case is it to reduce the maximum daily dose.

The CBC article also quoted medical experts who pointed out that different people metabolize painkillers differently and even doses below the recommended maximum can be dangerous to them. And when different drugs are taken in combination, it raises a whole new set of risks related to interactions.

The risks of heart attack and stroke

South of the border, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is requiring new warning labels for popular pain relievers such as Celebrex for arthritis, and planning to do the same for others such as Advil and Motrin.

The warning? The increased short-term risk of heart attack and stroke related to the use, even the proper use, of these medications.

Awareness of this risk factor is nothing new. It’s been known in the medical and pharmaceutical community for 15 years, according to Dr. David Henry, a researcher at the University of Toronto quoted in a July CBC story on the subject.

What does this all mean?

Don’t ignore chronic or recurring pain, or rely on painkillers as your “treatment”. For your long-term health, you must consult with qualified healthcare professionals to understand the root cause and embark on a suitable course of care.

Chiropractic is non-invasive, drug-free, and addresses sources of pain so our patients don’t have to reach for those pain medications. At Hazeldean Family Chiropractic here in Kanata, we practice Chiropractic BioPhysics, a modern and rigorously scientific technique to achieve long-term structural correction of your spine and relief from pain.

Is this what you need? There’s only one way to find out. Come see us.


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We hope you did. Please share it with your friends. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where we regularly post on other health-related topics. Our website also has great information about Chiropractic care and other health-related topics, such as the importance of having proper form when you are at the gym.

6 Join the Conversation

  1. Deli Davis says
    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:15 AM

    Excellent information.

    • Dr. Erin says
      Sep 14, 2015 at 2:58 PM

      Glad you enjoyed the article. :-)

  2. Jane Hearty says
    Sep 14, 2015 at 11:03 AM

    Thanks for this great information.

    • Dr. Erin says
      Sep 14, 2015 at 2:59 PM

      I'm glad you found the article valuable, Jane. Please share the email by forwarding it to your friends.

  3. Judi Barry says
    Sep 14, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    Judi Barry Information on neck pain could not have come at a better time. Thank you.....

    • Dr. Erin says
      Sep 14, 2015 at 3:00 PM

      Sorry to hear your neck is bothering you! I hope you find the stretches helpful in relieving your discomfort. Stay in touch if you want info on other areas as well.

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