DR. KESTNER: Think twice before reaching for pain medication

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Medical researchers are expressing growing concerns about the potentially dangerous side effects of pain medications that are widely used.

Studies have found an increased risk of up to 18 percent of cardiovascular disease associated with the use of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and other brands).

Another drug, diclofenac, sold as the brand name Votaren and others has a potential increased risk of heart attack or stroke of up to 40 percent.

This is very close to the profile of the drug Vioxx that was pulled from the market in 2004 when it was found that the drug increased the risk of potentially fatal cardiovascular damage by as much as 45 percent.

These drugs are in the broad category known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

While the drugs can sometimes be very effective in the relief of pain from arthritis and other problems, the risks are very real and should be considered.

Vioxx and a drug sold as Bextra hit the market around 1999 and were marketed heavily by their manufacturers directly to consumers. The ads encouraged consumers to ask their doctors for the new drugs.

Just a year earlier a similar drug branded as Celebrex was launched by Pfizer.

The FDA later pulled Vioxx and Bextra from the market due to dangerous side effects and the agency issued strong cautions regarding the use of Celebrex.

Besides the elevated risks of cardiovascular damage, many of these drugs carried increased risks of injury and death due to gastrointestinal, kidney and liver failure, serious and sometimes fatal skin reactions, and allergic reactions.

You may be wondering how drugs that turn out to have such serious side effects ever get approved by the FDA in the first place.

In some cases, the pre-market research carried out with the drugs has not been done for long enough period of time to realize the potential long-term risks.

For example, some of the fatal side effects were not discovered until users had been taking the medication for more than six months.

In one particularly troublesome case involving Celebrex, it turned out that one of the primary researchers had falsified numerous studies in order to gain FDA approval.

The individual involved, supposedly an independent researcher, also turned out to be on the payroll of the manufacturer.

There is such enormous potential profit in these types of products that heavy pressure is exerted to gain quick FDA approval.

Billions of dollars are at stake.

Unfortunately, billions of dollars sometimes have the potential to suppress concerns about human lives.

On the flip side of that concern is the fact that millions of people live with chronic daily pain.

Just as the potential profits drive pharmaceutical companies and their investors, the demand for truly effective pain relief medication is growing.

More people fall into the chronic pain category daily.

There are some very good drug-free options for patients that have chronic pain.

In many cases over the past 25 years I have seen patients be able to reduce or eliminate the need for pain medications by seeking alternative solutions.

Chiropractic care has successfully aided patients with symptoms such as chronic back or neck pain and headaches for more than one hundred years.

Chiropractic care can also be very helpful for a wide variety of other conditions as well.

Acupuncture has been utilized around the world for thousands of years to alleviate painful conditions.

In my office I have often seen dramatic outcomes in cases where nothing else has been effective.

Therapeutic exercise, yoga, relaxation, breathing exercises, massage and other approaches have often helped people modify their conditions to the point that they no longer need to rely on pain medications.

I often recommend these types of activities to my patients and if needed, help them find a reliable provider. There are many good therapists in our area.

For more information about these types of drug-free treatments click on www.DrKestner.com.

Before you reach for the pill bottle next time, give some thought to the potential risks and alternative solutions.

Resolving painful conditions is much better than medicating the pain.

Next week: The unique opportunities we have in Rutherford County to increase our activity level.
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