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Nonsteroidal prescription and nonprescription anti-inflammatory drugs all have side effects that accumulate affecting the stomach, liver, and kidneys. They also can affect the cardiovascular system, potentially leading to heart attacks, and are not designed for long-term use. But newer and more promising drugs are also expensive and can also produce questionable side effects.
Understand the ingredients in common topical products
The bizarre death of a New York City high school track star from a muscle pain cream overdose earlier in 2011 raised a red flag on the hazards of overusing common over-the-counter medications containing methyl salicylate.
An aspirin-like anti-inflammatory methyl salicylate, or salicylic acid, is the active ingredient in commonly used drugstore pain creams, creams such as Bengay, Icy Hot and Tiger Balm, as well as aspirin, and "is potentially harmful if overused," according to Dr. Gerard Varlotta, the director of sport rehabilitation at Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City.
An anti-clotting agent, salicyclic acid at very high doses "can cause internal bleeding, it can cause arrhythmias of the heart, it can cause problems in the liver—there are any number of ways it can [affect] you," Varlotta added.
But, long-familiar brands like Bengay don't trigger warnings in most Americans' minds, so the temptation to overuse them is ever-present. Many people don’t read the directions let alone the products’ warnings and precautions, but simply apply it and expect it to work as advertised.
Alternatives to prescription drugs
People are becoming more aware as the horror stories become more publicized in media and online. It is a good sign that people are taking greater care in what they allow into their bodies either by ingesting orally or through their pores.
There are a variety of pain-relieving topical creams, oils, and lotions made from natural ingredients that work in less than five minutes and with no side effects or harmful toxins. People who suffer from joint pain, muscle pain, and fatigue have reported almost magical relief and improved their lives by trying safe and reputable topical alternatives to prescription drugs.