Pain Treatment Aspirin

Aspirin, one of the most common pain relief medications on the market today, is available both in over-the-counter and prescription strength. It can be used to treat a wide range of health problems including fever, sports injury, toothache and arthritis.

The Making of Aspirin

Aspirin, a drug classified as a salicylate, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs typically block the action of enzymes called cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2):

  • COX-1 helps protect the stomach lining from digestive acids, aids in kidney function and supports the production of platelets in the blood.
  • COX-2 promotes inflammation in the joints and muscles when the body is injured.

Each of these enzymes is also responsible for producing prostaglandins, hormones that promote inflammation, fever and soreness when the body has suffered from any kind of damage. Aspirin bocks both types of cyclooxygenases to ease pain and increase blood flow throughout the body.

Aspirin Uses

Aspirin is different from other types of NSAIDs because it is the only one shown to reduce blood clotting for an extended period of time (4-7 days). This unique attribute makes aspirin especially viable in the prevention of heart attacks, stroke and pulmonary embolism (the potentially fatal condition in which blood clots lodge in the lungs and obstruct the airways).

Aspirin is also effective in treating or easing:

  • colds
  • general joint pain
  • headaches
  • menstrual cramping
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • sports injuries, such as sprains.

Risks of Aspirin

While aspirin is generally considered a safe and non-addictive drug, it does come with potential side effects. The most common side effects include upset stomach, vomiting, indigestion and diarrhea.

Similarly, aspirin shouldn’t be used in certain cases or in combination with some prescription drugs. For example, because aspirin blocks the COX-1 enzyme that protects the stomach lining and support kidney function, individuals with kidney disease, ulcers or liver problems should consult a doctor before taking aspirin.

Aspirin is also not recommended for children who are experiencing fever, flu or chicken pox. Some studies have shown that using aspirin in these cases can rarely cause a potentially fatal disease known as Reye’s syndrome (a condition that causes serious damage to the liver and brain). As a result, consult a doctor prior to using aspirin for these symptoms.

Aspirin Overdoses

In the event of overdose, consult a poison help line or visit the emergency room immediately. Prescription aspirin comes with specific instructions regarding the dosage and time periods in which it may be taken. Non-prescription aspirin also comes with directions for its use, which will vary from brand to brand depending upon the brand’s specific dosage.

When taking aspirin in conjunction with other over-the-counter medications be sure to read the label of the other medications before taking them, as they may also contain large doses of aspirin. For example, if you are taking Alka-Seltzer Effervescent Pain Reliever®, note that it already contains aspirin. As a result, avoid taking more aspirin (or lessen your dosage) to prevent yourself from overdosing on this drug.

Aspirin has shown itself to be an effective treatment for many acute conditions associated with inflammation and pain. Proper use can promote a healthy and long life.

Resources

Drugs.com (n.d.) Aspirin. Retrieved on August 28, 2007 from the Drugs.com Web site: http://www.drugs.com/aspirin.html.

MedLinePlus (n.d.). Aspirin. Retrieved on August 28, 2007 from the MedLinePlus Web site: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/medmaster/a682878.html.

WebMD (n.d.). Drugs and Treatment – Aspirin Oral. Retrieved on August 28, 2007 from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/drugs/mono-3-ASPIRIN – ORAL.aspx?drugid=1082