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The Pain of Joint Pain Drugs


Physicians are well-aware that NSAIDs, and even the commonly used steroid injections, don’t heal the damage. They merely suppress symptoms. I’ve had many patients report to me the plan they were given by their doctor was to simply take the medications until the degeneration gets bad enough that they need surgery. They were not given any other options.

And while some people might be fine with having surgery, I for one am going to do whatever I can for me and my family to avoid surgery and minimize the amount of potentially dangerous drugs we take.

That’s why I’m an advocate for integrative approaches to health beyond only considering drugs and surgery. There’s great research out there showing that there are alternative ways to promote joint health, reduce pain and increase your ability to get back to the things you love doing. And doing so without the dangerous risks that drugs create. Joint Relief is the product I created to do just that.

If your doctor isn’t an expert in integrative medicine, find one that is. And be sure to spend some time on the NBI website to discover resources and drug-free approaches to improving your health.

More people than ever are taking medications. In 2017, pharmacies filled more than 4 billion prescriptions. Fifty-five percent of Americans now take at least one drug and almost 12% take five or more prescriptions drugs. When I ask people what their doctor recommended for their joint pain the nearly universal answer I hear is that the first thing they tried were Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Ibuprofen.

Tylenol, Ibuprofen the less common one Diclofenac, are in a category of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are the go-to drugs for osteoarthritis (OA) and they’re consumed in massive quantities around the world. More than 70 million prescriptions for NSAIDs are filled every year in the US and billions of over-the-counter tablets are sold annually.

While effective at suppressing pain in OA, NSAIDs come with serious risks that most people aren’t aware of. And most doctors don’t explain to their patients. NSAIDs are the most frequent cause of drug-induced liver toxicity.

NSAIDs are the most frequent cause of drug-induced liver toxicity. These drugs can also cause bleeding in the stomach, lower esophagus or upper part of the small intestines. When this occurs, it’s called peptic ulcer disease. Data show that among 20% to 30% of all hospitalizations and deaths due to peptic ulcer disease in people 65 years or older were caused by NSAIDs.

In fact, it’s been estimated that in the US more people with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis die every year from NSAIDs than people who die from cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s disease and asthma, making NSAID death the 15th most common cause of death annually.

But even if the drugs don’t cause bleeding ulcers or kill you, the short-term benefit of suppressing the pain isn’t helping to repair the joints. In fact, chronic NSAID use may actually accelerate joint damage inhibiting joint repair.

Medications come with risks and not just the NSAIDs. According to the FDA, Americans experience more two million adverse events from drugs every year. And these are only the ones that are reported to the FDA by primary care physicians or end up landing someone in the hospital and require mandatory reporting.

Most side effects aren’t reported because, for most types of side effects, reporting is voluntary. Without a doubt, the problem of adverse drug events is much greater than what the official numbers depict. To learn more, read my blog, Death by Prescription and What You Can Do About It.

Hydrocortisone therapy is sometimes used in conventional medicine to treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis and other chronic pain syndromes. The problem with using cortisol for arthritis that it inhibits cellular repair and regeneration. Although it may dramatically decrease the pain initially, this therapy is of limited long-term value and may increase the progression of joint degeneration in OA. Used systemically, steroids such as prednisone, also cause osteoporosis and increase fracture risk up to 200%.


Bessone F. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: What is the actual risk of liver damage? World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(45):5651-5661. [Article]

Brooks PM, Potter SR, Buchanan WW. NSAID and osteoarthritis–help or hindrance? J Rheumatol. 1982;9(1):3-5. [Article]

Felson DT, Lawrence RC, Hochberg MC, et al. Osteoarthritis: New Insights: Part 2:  Treatment Approaches. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(9):726-737. [Article]

Lichtenstein DR, Syngal S, Wolfe MM. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and the gastrointestinal tract. The double-edged sword. Arthritis Rheum. 1995;38(1):5-18. [Article]

Schmeltzer PA, Kosinski AS, Kleiner DE, et al. Liver injury from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the United States. Liver Int. 2016;36(4):603-609. [Article]

Wolfe MM, Lichtenstein DR, Singh G. Gastrointestinal toxicity of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. N Engl J Med. 1999;340(24):1888-1899. [Article]

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