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New research published today in the British Medical Journal warns of an increased risk of heart disease associated with taking anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen. These medicines are readily available and used to treat everyday pains of arthritis, headaches, period pain and sports or work-related injuries… and unless you’re asthmatic or have a nasty stomach ulcer, it’s likely you have taken some before. As an osteopath, I regularly see patients who have been prescribed naproxen or ibuprofen by their GP to help ease an acute back pain – with proven effectiveness (1).

However, this recent report using data from 10 million NSAID users in Europe demonstrated a 19% increased risk of hospital admission for heart failure. Quite an alarming figure which is making a major mark on the headlines today!

It’s important that the public take notice of this research and consider their choice of over-the-counter pain medication more carefully. But before binning your ibuprofen it’s worth scrutinising the details of this study to get some perspective. The data was collected from prescription-only (hence higher dosage) NSAIDs used over the long-term by people with an average age of 77. So, if you’re younger, fitter and healthier than this and using painkillers sparingly and appropriately, the benefits are still likely to outweigh the risks. It is always worth checking with your GP or pharmacist to make sure. And for a drug-free approach to pain relief, call your osteopath!

1) Van Tulder MW et al. (2008) Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Issue 1. Art no. CD000396.