The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


My doctor gave me painkillers. Are they safe?

There are many kinds of painkillers. Aspirin, Tylenol, and nonsteroidal medications are non-habit-forming analgesics. Narcotics, and most muscle spasm drugs, are potentially addictive.

Many are worried about a worldwide increase in the use of painkillers. Research shows that eighty percent of American adults take analgesics regularly. In addition, United States doctors write 312 million pain medication prescriptions a year, one for every man, woman, and child. The increase in the use of analgesics may be related to a greater awareness of pain treatment options, liberal prescribing standards by physicians, or increased advertising by drug companies.

Even non-addictive analgesics can cause health problems. Tylenol, an ingredient in many over-the-counter products, can cause liver disease. Non-steroidals can damage the stomach and kidneys. They can interfere with clotting. The risks are, however, minimal if the medications are used only according to their instructions.

Narcotics, and other prescription medications, often provide the best relief, even though there are some risks. Addiction is rare if the medications are used only for pain and taken according to the instructions. When the pain is gone, most patients simply stop using the medications.

Common sense rules should apply to the use of all medications. Donít use any drug unless absolutely necessary. Use the least amount possible. Follow the instructions. Make sure you understand the risks.



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Last modified: 07/27/08