Treating Pain While Taking Aspirin for Heart Disease

By

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN

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More and more people with heart disease are taking aspirin, or ASA, to help reduce their risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. But what happens if you’re taking aspirin regularly and you have aches and pains, either chronic pain or from an injury or you’re just working out too hard?

While the best answer is that you should speak to your doctor about what you should do, here are some guidelines to help you understand what should and shouldn’t be taken along with aspirin, and some non-medicinal options for treating pain that you may want to try.

Increasing the Aspirin Dose

Usually people who take aspirin for heart disease take only a small dose once a day. If you need occasional pain relief, ask your doctor if increasing your aspirin dose to the daily recommended dose, for a short period of time, is a good idea for you.

As with all medicines, aspirin has some side effects, and you may not experience them if you’re taking it at low doses. The most common side effects from aspirin are nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and heartburn. For this reason, it’s recommended that you take aspirin with food – to help protect your stomach.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories

Both aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) slow down blood clotting, although they do so in different ways, so they’re not interchangeable. You can buy NSAIDs over-the-counter or by prescription. Examples of NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin IB and Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Although NSAIDs can be very effective in relieving pain because they reduce inflammation, taking them at the same time as taking aspirin could cause serious complications. NSAIDs can cause some of the same side effects as aspirin, and taking both together could make the side effects worse, as well as having an added effect on your blood clotting.

So if you do take NSAIDs and aspirin, they should not be taken at the same time. If your doctor has agreed that you may take both aspirin and an NSAID for pain, check with your doctor or pharmacist about the timing – which medicine you should take when.

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, isn’t an NSAID and doesn’t have the same effects on blood clotting. It’s also not as hard on the stomach as some NSAIDs can be for some people. As well, acetaminophen doesn’t have any interactions with aspirin, so it can usually be taken alongside it if you need pain relief. However, as with all medicines, it’s important to stay within the recommended dosages if you take acetaminophen, and you should tell your doctor that you are taking it.

Non-Medicinal Ways to Manage Pain

Medicines can be very effective in reducing or managing pain, but sometimes a non-medicinal method can work just as well, without the side effects that can go along some medicines. Before reaching for drugs, either over-the-counter or prescription, here are some non-medicinal methods you may consider trying:

Meditation and mindfulness. Many people find active relaxing through meditation or mindfulness can help relieve pain. There are many ways you can meditate, such as guided meditation, visualization, or even yoga.

Heat or cold. Depending on what type of pain you have and what has caused it, application of heat or cold may help relieve the discomfort. If you’re not sure which to use, check with your doctor. And remember to protect your skin. Ice or heat applied directly to your skin can cause damage.

Acupuncture. A centuries-old treatment, acupuncture can be effective in relieving many types of health problems, including some types of pain. To find an acupuncturist, ask for referrals from your doctor, or friends, and family members.

Massage therapy. Massages are not only relaxing, they may help relieve muscular pain. A qualified massage therapist will know what type of technique to use to help relieve your pain and promote relaxation.

Living with pain can be frustrating, especially if you’re already taking aspirin, which is a pain reliever on its own. But by speaking with your doctor and exploring alternate methods of pain relief, you may be more comfortable in no time.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 18, 2016

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