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It often may seem that when experiencing pain in one or more muscle groups, the easiest answer is to reach for over-the-counter pain medicine. The answer is not always so simple. OTC medications carry side effects that can actually be worse than the pain they are supposed to alleviate. And, if taken frequently, more and more of the medicine may be needed in order to help alleviate pain symptoms.

Massage therapy can help relieve pain and stiffness naturally, without drugs.  Before grabbing pills to ease pain, know the difference between the two main categories of over-the-counter pain medication: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen.

Both NSAIDs and acetaminophen can help relieve pain and reduce fever, but only NSAIDs possess anti-inflammatory properties. An example of acetaminophen is Tylenol, and NSAIDs are sold under brand names such as Advil and Aleve. The OTC availability of each medication may make them seem completely safe, but there are possible side effects to both drugs.

NSAIDs have been tied to side effects including increased risk of heart disease, renal complications, ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. Acetaminophen, in long-term use, may result in an increased risk of heart, gastrointestinal and kidney problems. A surprising side effect of acetaminophen is that it may not only decrease pain and fever, but also diminish the ability to feel emotions. A recent Ohio State University study indicates that people who took acetaminophen had less emotional reactions to both very pleasant and very disturbing images than people who took a placebo.

For people in pain who do not want to expose themselves to the potential side effects of acetaminophen and NSAIDs, massage therapy can provide a valuable and effective alternative. In fact, massage therapy can tap into the body’s own all-natural ability to relieve pain. Massage therapy releases endorphins, which are the body’s own naturally produced opiates. Endorphins help to improve blood circulation and cellular activities to encourage overall body wellness. The next time your body is aching, consider booking a massage therapy appointment, rather than reaching for acetaminophen or NSAIDs—and skip the risk for side effects!

©The Academy of Massage Therapy and Bodyworks
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