Health Advice Aaron Kovac

What was your initial reaction the last time you reached for that shoe on the ground or picked up a weight at the gym and threw your back out?

Many people, when experiencing a little pain in the back, hips, knees or neck, head straight to the medicine cabinet and pop an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen for quick relief. While these medications are generally safe to use, many OTC pain medication users are unaware of potential side effects. Due to individual medical history or lifestyle, these medications may not be safe for everyone.

Of course, if you have done your homework and are able to take them safely, take care not to overdo it. People can and have overdosed on OTC medications. Unfortunately, society has become slightly immune to the idea that all medications should be handled with care, and the idea that only prescription painkillers are potentially dangerous is far too popular. In reality, OTC pills taken to help reduce inflammation and decrease pain can have serious consequences if taken in excess.

Don’t make assumptions that it’s OK to take aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. At your next visit with your doctor, talk about OTC medications. Make sure you tell your doctor about your lifestyle and health history, as these have an effect on whether you should take an OTC medication and whether you can do so safely.

Five important topics to discuss with your doctor:

• Your medical history. Do you have asthma, diabetes, heart problems or high blood pressure? Have you been treated for ulcers, kidney disease or liver disease?

• Have you ever displayed any type of reaction when taking an OTC medication?

• Do you drink more than two alcoholic beverages per day?

• Any other medications you take on a regular basis, or any dietary supplements?

• How often do you take OTC medications and how long do you take them for? Do you take them for more than 10 days consecutively?

When experiencing pain, it should not be second nature to reach for a bottle of pills. However, we live in a society that is constantly on the go and many people feel like they do not have time to find the root of the problem. What might be causing the pain in the first place? Painkillers only cover up the problem, they won’t fix it. Therefore, the likelihood of experiencing the pain again in the future is very high.

While temporary relief is often helpful to get through the day-to-day dealings of life, it is still just that — temporary. Many of us have no idea that our OTC medications may not be the best solution.

That’s not to say that OTC painkillers serve absolutely no purpose. They do provide some pain relief and they have shown to help reduce inflammation. In fact, a recent study released indicated that these medications may actually help prevent skin cancer. Talk about an interesting side effect.

What’s the bottom line? If you are going to take OTC medication, it’s imperative to read the fine print on the sides of the bottles. But don’t stop there. Remember, those instructions are like a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, and when it comes to your health and safety, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all.

Dr. Aaron Kovac is a licensed chiropractor and physiotherapist, and owner of Back in Line Family Chiropractic in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at (480) 704-8818 or

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