Many athletes can utilize an over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication at some point in order to cope with minor aches, pain and injury. These drugs are commonly used but are not fully understood by most individuals who use them. These medications are effective and reliable when used correctly for moderate pain relief but they also have risks and possible side effects.
Basic types of over-the-counter pain medications
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) include aspirin, naproxen sodium and ibuprofen.
Some products combine these pain medications with other ingredients such as decongestants or caffeine. These added ingredients can help address certain symptoms such as cough or nasal congestion.
Generally, naproxen and ibuprofen minimize pain more than the same dosage of acetaminophen or aspirin. Just remember though that aspirin and acetaminophen have advantages. Take note that acetaminophen is often recommended for treating the pain caused by arthritis since it does not cause stomach irritation. It is also the safest pain medication for children. In addition, aspirin is the only pain reliever that can reduce the risk for heart attack.
NSAIDs prevent the body from producing prostaglandins which are substances that are naturally produced by the body that serve as mediators for various physiological functions including protection of the stomach lining as well as controlling the blood pressure.
These medications also mediate pain and inflammation. They also work by blocking all prostaglandins. Even though pain is blocked, they also block those that protect the stomach lining, thus causing stomach upset or GI bleeding in some individuals. Always remember that the risk of problems increases with prolonged use of NSAIDs.
Aspirin is categorized as an NSAID but possesses unique properties. This is a pain medication that minimizes fever and inflammation. It is also known to prevent heart attacks as well as other long-term benefits including minimizing the risk for colon cancer. Aspirin acts as a blood thinner and can prevent blood clots.
Topical pain medications, gels and creams
These are directly applied to the skin and available in various forms including gels, creams, patches and lotions. The commonly used topical pain medications contain salicylates. They are highly effective in relieving pain by reducing inflammation once absorbed by the skin and used correctly, but some have their own share of risks.
Acetaminophen is believed to act on the pain centers in the brain. They are considered as the safest pain medications since they do not block the prostaglandins, thus will not cause GI bleeding. This medication minimizes pain and fever, but not the inflammation.
What is the best pain medication?
It is recommended to consult a doctor first before taking any pain medications. If these are taken for any other medical condition, it is vital to ask about and fully understand the possible interactions and side effects. The doctor should be informed regarding other medications or supplements used before using any pain medications.
In case the individual takes an over-the-counter pain medication, you have to follow the directions closely. Generally, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are beneficial for those who are suffering from sports injuries that causes pain, inflammation and swelling.