Reduce the Pain, Choose the Right Medication

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 8:00 AM comments (0)

aspirinIt can be challenging to choose the right over-the-counter pain medication. While the choices are many, it’s very important to make a decision based on your symptoms and other medical issues. Not all pain relievers are created equal, and knowing the difference between various types can be very helpful.

Before taking any medication, you should consult with your physician and/or pharmacist. Additionally, you should carefully read labels for warnings and other information. This is especially true for combination products used for treating pain and other conditions, such as colds, allergies, arthritis and muscle aches.

Acetaminophen and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly used over-the-counter pain medications. The main difference between the two is that NSAIDs help reduce pain, fever and inflammation. Acetaminophen only reduces pain and fever.

George Carro, Pharmacist at NorthShore Evanston Hospital, helps clarify the differences between these common over-the-counter pain relievers to help you make a better, more-informed decision:

Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) tends to be milder on the stomach. Keep in mind that acetaminophen will not help with inflammation. Acetaminophen is an active ingredient in many other medications, including cold and flu preparations. Be sure to read all labels carefully so you do not exceed the recommended maximum daily dose of acetaminophen.
Safe for Children? Acetaminophen is generally considered safe for use in children. Always be sure to confirm proper usage and dosing information with your pediatrician.
Side Effects? Liver toxicity, including liver damage and failure, can be associated with improper use of this drug.  Alcohol consumption in combination with acetaminophen use may increase this risk.

NSAIDs—Aspirin (Bayer®), Ibuprofen (Advil ®or Motrin®), Naproxen (Aleve®) and others—can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Safe for Children? As with any drug for children, it is recommended to discuss proper usage and dosing information with your pediatrician. Please consider the following for use in children:

  • Aspirin should not be used in children under the age of 16 years. It has been associated with Reyes’s syndrome, a potentially fatal disease in children.
  • Ibuprofen is not recommended for use in children under the age of 6 months.
  • Naproxen is not recommended for use in children under the age of 12 years.

Side Effects? The most common side effects include stomach and kidney problems. It is recommended to take all NSAIDs with food to help minimize stomach irritation. If you have heart conditions, stomach ulcers or blood disorders, please consult with your physician before taking these medications.

No drug—prescription or over-the-counter—is without risks. Always consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about your medications. Our NorthShore pharmacists can also answer questions and help you make informed, over-the-counter pain reliever selections.

Migraine Headache Surgery: A New Treatment Option

Thursday, September 06, 2012 9:39 AM comments (0)

Migraine-SurgeryRelief from migraine headaches can come in many different forms – from pain medication, preventative drugs, massage and acupuncture to at-home remedies including relaxation techniques and proper sleep.

Approximately 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Those who are able to identify “trigger” sites on the head or face where the migraine pain starts or localizes may be able to consider a plastic surgery treatment option. Botox, traditionally used to relax facial muscles to reduce wrinkles, can also be used to relax muscles around the nerves that may trigger migraines.

Michael Howard, MD, a plastic surgeon at NorthShore, works closely with our neurologists to evaluate candidates for migraine headache surgery.  Dr. Howard identifies some of the factors that may help determine if a patient is a good candidate for this surgery:

  • A diagnosis of migraine headache is confirmed with the patient’s neurologist. In most cases, success in reducing pain has not been achieved through other treatment methods, such as medication.
  • Specific trigger sites for headaches can be determined. These are often caused by a compression or entrapment of specific nerves in the head and neck region. 
  • A Botox injection test is performed at the trigger sites.
  • Patients with a positive result from injection—a 50 percent or greater reduction in migraine frequency, duration or severity —may be considered for this treatment.
  • Once patients are considered appropriate candidates, and trigger sites have been identified, the procedure finds the nerves responsible for the headaches through a small incision in the skin. The nerves are then cut and the incisions are closed. Recovery is fast and most patients are able to resume their normal activities within a few days.

Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do you know your trigger sites?

Cluster Headaches are a Seasonal and Painful Affliction

Friday, July 06, 2012 7:59 AM comments (0)

Cluster-HeadacheDubbed ‘suicide headaches,’ cluster headaches strike without warning. Symptoms include pain on one side of the head (usually behind the eye or temple) that occur seasonally, in the spring and late fall.

Dr. B.T. Horton, the researcher who first identified these headaches in 1939, said his patients had to be constantly watched for fear of suicide because the pain is so excruciating.

Steven Meyers, MD, Neurologist with NorthShore, offers the following known facts about cluster headaches:

  • Tend to strike young adults and men more often than women
  • Put African Americans at more risk than Caucasians
  • Can last for days, weeks or longer
  • Most often occur at a precise time of day or night, in a regular pattern
  • Pain can mysteriously ease almost as quickly as it begins
  • May be triggered by changes in daylight in the spring and fall. The cyclical nature suggests a connection to the body’s biological clock.

While there is no cure for cluster headaches, there are treatments that can decrease the severity of pain, shorten the duration and even prevent them. The key is correct diagnosis. Relatively rare, they affect less than 1% of the population and are frequently mistaken for migraines. Be sure to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and relief.z

Do you suffer from cyclical, painful headaches? What do you do to relieve headaches?

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