Removing the Mask of OTCs: Chasing the Phantom by Facing the Pain

By Martha Michael

Man thinking about taking pain medication

There are two ways we choreograph our response to pain. One resembles a masked ball, where we suppress the physical sensation and just keep moving to the music. The other is to face the pain and treat the cause directly.

Suppress

One of the dangers of masquerading as though you’re not experiencing pain is mostly that true healing doesn’t take place. The aggravation itself is nature’s way of communicating there’s a problem, so when ignored, you neglect to treat the root issue. That’s the drawback to oral painkillers.

According to a Consumer Reports article titled “The Safest Ways to Stop Pain,” about 8 out of 10 adults take pain medication at least once a week. The problem, says writer Jamie Kopf, is that almost 80,000 people per year go to emergency rooms for taking too much acetaminophen, and hundreds die from it. With 4,000 milligrams per day you can get liver damage -- that’s just eight Extra Strength Tylenol pills. Even before 2012, when the FDA proposed that acetaminophen bottles carry stronger warnings about dosage, the makers of Extra Strength Tylenol reduced its maximum daily dose to 3,000 milligrams.

The Consumer Reports article also warns people to avoid alcohol consumption while taking acetaminophen because of the potential for liver damage. Most acetaminophen products you can purchase over the counter warn that three or more glasses of alcohol are too many when combined with the product. And there are problems with topical analgesics also, it warns. The adhesives on such pain reduction medications as camphor and menthol sometimes cause allergic reactions and skin burns.

Of course, there are mild treatments at home to minimize pain. In addition to rest and elevating the area of discomfort, for immediate response to pain you can apply ice for 20 minutes, several times a day, the article advises. The cold application serves to reduce inflammation and swelling, and applying heat later in the process will relax the muscles and promote healing.

Address

Facing the reason for the pain experienced by an individual has fewer risks and a more comprehensive effect. Seeking chiropractic care from a licensed chiropractor is one of several natural, yet drug-free ways to target the root cause of the pain and get it treated, rather than covering it up, or masking it, with medications.

“A recent review concluded that chiropractic spinal manipulation may be helpful for back pain, migraines, neck pain, and whiplash,” says Harvard Health Publications. In addition, a chiropractor may advise you about changing your biomechanics and posture and suggest other treatments or techniques. The ultimate goal of chiropractic is to help relieve pain and help patients better manage their condition at home.”

Much of the time, chiropractors address pain using spinal manipulation, but there are a growing number of treatment options. Correcting the body alignment of patients often serves to alleviate pain, and many practitioners add education to the treatment plan. When patients can take corrective measures on their own, such as postural positioning and improving the ergonomics of their work stations, healing can occur and help prevent issues from arising.

Orchestrating something immediate to treat your pain is important, of course. But masking it with oral pain relievers is a tactic that may enable unaddressed health issues to grow, and possibly even spread. You don’t want to wait until your dance card is full before getting in step with a health practitioner to find its cause. After all, treating the cause is more important than dancing with an unknown ailment.

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