What to try instead of bottled pain relievers

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PHOTO: The Food and Drug Administration says studies show it is time for stronger warnings on over-the-counter pain relievers including ibuprofen and naproxen. | KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

They’re a couple aisles over from greeting cards and the magazines. So it’s no wonder over-the-counter medications seem benign.

But they are not, and the Food and Drug Administration wants to make sure we’re very aware of that. Late last week the FDA unveiled new warnings for OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which include pain relievers ibuprofen and naproxen. Popular OTC meds such as Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen) now include the warning “may cause” an increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke. The language on the new labels will be much stronger, saying these pain relievers “cause an increased risk” of heart attack and stroke.

The FDA came to this conclusion after a number of studies have determined that these products come with problems as well as pain relief, according to news stories. These studies show that the risk increases even when using these meds for a short period of time. Higher dosages up the risk as well. And while the risk is greatest for those who have already suffered a heart attack, even persons who have not remain at risk.

Experts are urging that when we do need to take these pain relievers, we use the lowest dosage possible and for the shortest time possible. Many arthritis sufferers use them daily. Harvard Health recommends weeklong “vacations” and taking acetaminophen

And here’s another idea: instead of reaching for the pain meds, go in search of natural solutions. Let’s take for example muscle pain, something I myself have been combating lately. Instead of OTC meds, I do stretches, icing, hot showers or baths and then more stretches. A combination of all of these often is needed, and sometimes it takes a bit of time, but you know what? They do bring relief. And help me avoid bottled pain relievers.

I’ve also heard things such as sipping pickle juice can help too, though I haven’t given that a try. Yet.

In fact, our first line of defense when fighting pain or any health dilemma should be a natural one. Can’t sleep? Get off all caffeine and try a couple tablespoons tart cherry juice concentrate mixed with water. Sinuses stuffed up? Invest in a neti pot (mine was $12) and/or as a friend suggested, get some eucalyptus oil. She puts it on a tissue and inhales it. And sprays some on her pillow. Works wonders.

If you’re eating a lot of fast and processed foods, move away from them. You’ll be surprised at how much better that will make you feel. Proper sleep (turn off that TV!) as well as being properly hydrated often do wonders as well.

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