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Pharmacy/safe pain medicine


I am 69 years old, and sometimes I get pain in elbows, knees, back. I am reluctant to take pain medicine after reading all the warnings. is there any medicine that is safer than any other. I don't have stomach ulcers, but warnings always state could cause stomach bleeding.


Pain around the joints in a patient of your age is quite possibly due to arthritic problems. As such, the most common treatment is to use analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents, but as you say these are not without side effects or problems with long term use.

In the first instance, I would suggest using an effective dose of acetaminophen (2 x 500mg tablets up to four times a day when required). This can give reasonable pain relief without the risks of anti-inflammatory drugs. Providing you have healthy liver and kidney function such a dose would not be harmful.

A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can be added in if pain is severe and acetaminophen is not adequate. With NSAIDs, the likelihood of problems with gastric ulceration or bleeding, is largely dependent on three factors:

- the dose of drug taken
- the relative potency of the drug compared to others
- the duration it is used for

Ibuprofen is one of the mildest drugs, so can usually be used for longer at a low-medium dose compared to a more potent drug such as Naproxen.

If you feel you need to move on to an NSAID, it is probably advisable to speak to your general physician first so that he can advise on the most appropriate drug and confirm exactly what the underlying problem is. Longer term treatment options can also be considered e.g. joint surgery or steroid injections.

Other non-drug options are to maintain mobility as much as possible, without placing excessive load on the painful areas. So gentle swimming rather than a 10 mile run! Many also find that a warm bath is good to relax and improve circulation.

I hope this helps.  


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Nigel Simmons


I am happy to answer general questions on medicines and hospital care. If possible, please use approved / chemical names rather than brands which are not internationally recognised. Like all health professionals I am bound by a duty of care which prevents me giving detailed information about medication or treatment of people other than the questioner. I will endeavour to help wherever possible or point towards more appropriate advice. If however your question crosses too far into patient confidentiality, I hope you will understand why I cannot answer your question. Consider.. would you want me to discuss your care with a friend or relative without your knowledge?


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