Health Headlines: Popping pills

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Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 9:19 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - If you’re one of the millions of Americans who struggle with back pain, you might find yourself grabbing some over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen for quick relief. But those commonly used medications might actually be prolonging your pain.

Bending, sitting, and lifting are movements you usually don’t think about until they start causing you serious pain says Dr. Candice Burnette who works as a Pain Management Physician at Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony, “So about 80% of people in their lifetime will experience low back pain. Of those people, a good portion will experience pain that lasts for three months or longer.”

In fact, 16 million Americans have chronic back pain and rely on common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for relief.

But now, a new study suggests that those pills may be causing that pain to stick around longer. Researchers say that’s because the drugs temporarily relieve inflammation, but don’t actually treat the root cause of the problem.

Additionally, Cleveland Clinic says other recent studies show that the daily use of an anti-inflammatory can lead to stomach problems, high blood pressure, and kidney damage.

So, instead of reaching for pain pills first, some medical guidelines are starting to suggest that people start with non-drug treatments like exercise, yoga, physical therapy, heat, or massages.

Pain management specialists like Dr. Burnette say that if doctors don’t help patients find relief from back pain, things can get a lot worse, “It’s been linked to depression, sleep problems, anxiety. So having something that can effectively treat these patients who have been suffering really does improve their quality of life.”

Some medical experts urged caution in interpreting these studies, saying that the researchers at McGill University in Canada did not rely on a large clinical trail.

Still, others say this study is important because it reminds patients and doctors to search out effective treatments before popping a pill to relieve pain.

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