Is Acetaminophen Safe for Pain Management?

Always Be Careful When Taking Pain Medication

Suffering from any pain can be debilitating, impacting many aspects of your life. Whether you suffered an injury in an accident or suffer from chronic pain due to a specific condition, it is important to understand your options. One of the first things many people do when living in pain is to turn to the medicine cabinet. It’s safe to say most people have some kind of pain reliever on hand, typically acetaminophen. In fact, acetaminophen is the most widely used pain medication in the country. While it has generally been considered safe, many have questioned this in recent years.

As a pain management clinic in Frisco, we understand how difficult it is to live with chronic discomfort. We understand wanting a “quick fix” to live life without pain getting in the way. However, we encourage our patients to think outside the box and consider regenerative medicine and other alternative therapies instead of pain medications. As we’ve discussed in the past, the opioid epidemic has altered the face of modern medicine, specifically pain management. At Texas Partners Healthcare Group, our patients’ safety and well-being is our top priority. We strive to offer therapies and other options that address your pain concerns safely and effectively.

The purpose of today’s article is to take a closer look at acetaminophen. Because this pain relief medication is so widely used among both the young and old, we must understand how it works, potential side effects, and whether or not it is safe. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with our Frisco pain management clinic, please give us a call. Due to COVID-19, we are operating by appointment only. To learn more about our telemedicine options or if you have questions about managing your pain safely, contact us.

What is Acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is a drug commonly used to temporarily alleviate minor to severe aches and pain and reduce fever (more on that later).  Also known as APAP or paracetamol, acetaminophen is an analgesic that is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medications, including Tylenol and Benadryl, Vicodin, and Dayquil. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), more than 52 million Americans take a medication containing acetaminophen every single week. That is about 23 percent of adults in the nation.

With this many people turning to this medication for relief, it must be safe, right? While it is considered safe when taken at recommended doses, some recent studies have suggested there may be more risks associated with the drug than previously thought. Before we look at some of the potential side effects of acetaminophen and further discuss how safe it is, it may help to understand how it works:

  • Acetaminophen reduces the production of prostaglandins in the brain, which are the chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling
  • By increasing a person’s pain threshold, acetaminophen works to relieve low-level pain
  • When used as a fever reducer, acetaminophen notifies the heat-regulating center of the brain to lower the body’s temperature

Acetaminophen Uses

As mentioned, acetaminophen is a pain reliever. Some of its most common uses include:

  • Offers relief from pain caused by arthritis, muscular aches, back pain, common cold, toothache, premenstrual and menstrual cramps
  • Reduces fever
  • When the pain isn’t linked to inflammation, acetaminophen is as effective as aspirin
  • It provides pain relief of osteoarthritis

What You Need to Know About Pain Relievers

The most important distinction when it comes to the different types of pain relievers is that acetaminophen is not an anti-inflammatory agent. If you are looking for an inflammation reducer, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen may be more appropriate. Please remember to check with your healthcare provider before starting any medication. It is of the utmost importance that patients follow the dosage guidelines in place for these drugs. If abused or taken for an extended period of time, there are numerous, potentially harmful side effects that may occur.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of acetaminophen include:

  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Skin reactions
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Kidney damage
  • Anemia
  • A decrease in the number of platelets in the blood
  • Stomach bleeding due to long-term use of acetaminophen and chronic alcohol intake
  • Severe skin allergies
  • Blood cancer
  • Asthma
Acetaminophen Linked to Liver Damage

Acetaminophen may cause damage to the liver, which is why patients should take no more than 3,250 milligrams a day. However, there are reports of people developing liver complications after taking small amounts of it for extended periods of time. Individual lifestyle choices – such as drinking alcohol while taking acetaminophen – may also lead to liver damage. If you are looking for safe pain management in Frisco, Texas, we encourage you to contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group and learn about our alternative therapies.

Tips for Safe Pain Management

Acetaminophen can be very useful if used properly, but the known side effects are cause for concern. As more studies come out showing the potential harm of acetaminophen and other pain-relieving drugs, it is no wonder more people are turning to yoga, physical therapy, stem cell therapy, and other options for addressing pain. Here are a few tips for safely managing pain in 2020:

  • Discuss your symptoms and desired outcome with your doctor before starting any medication, including acetaminophen
  • Consider changing your diet to reduce chronic pain
  • Look into alternative therapies like ketamine infusions and stem cell therapy
  • Try yoga
  • Talk to a physical therapist

If you have a compromised liver or have been taking acetaminophen for an extended period to treat chronic pain, consider scheduling an appointment with Texas Partners Healthcare Group to learn about your other options. Your health and wellness matter to us, and we are here to help any way we can.