The People's Perspective on Medicine

Meloxicam for Pain | This NSAID is NOT a Narcotic!

What do you do when a joint hurts or you sprain an ankle? Many people take doctor-prescribed meloxicam for pain or an OTC NSAID. How safe are such drugs?

We are not huge fans of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for arthritis pain. That’s because arthritis is a chronic condition that requires long-term treatment. When you take an NSAID day in and day out for years, there are substantial risks. They include hypertension, bleeding ulcers, heart failure, heart attacks, strokes, changes in vision, liver and/or kidney damage and anemia. On the other hand, if a doctor prescribes meloxicam for pain and it is only used intermittently, the drug can be helpful. This NSAID is not an opioid. It is not addicting. What was this doctor thinking?

A Reader Worries About Taking Meloxicam for Pain:

Q. I have osteoarthritis of the hips. My doctor prescribed meloxicam, which only works a little bit, so I don’t take it regularly.

I recently switched to another orthopedic surgeon who told me meloxicam is a narcotic. Is that true? Internet searches have not substantiated this claim, so I was hoping you could tell me. I do not want to take an opioid for my arthritis.

A. Meloxicam (Mobic) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). That means it is similar in its action to celecoxib, diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen. It is definitely not a narcotic.

We cannot imagine how a physician would confuse an NSAID like meloxicam with an opioid like hydrocodone or oxycodone. This is basic pharmacology that medical students learn early in their education.

The only explanation we can come up with is that your new orthopedic surgeon was trying to discourage you from relying upon meloxicam for pain on a regular basis. Perhaps he thought that if he told you it was a narcotic it would prevent overuse. We find such misinformation unacceptable, especially since you were being responsible about using it intermittently.

Other Readers Report on Meloxicam for Pain:

Melody in Maryland had a BP problem with meloxicam:

“I was given a prescription for meloxicam after knee replacement surgery. My doctor and his team knew that I was taking a prescription medicine for hypertension.

“After only one day on this medicine my blood pressure shot up. I did not feel good. My physical therapist detected the problem with my worsening hypertension. It scared me.

“I took myself off meloxicam immediately and alerted the surgeon’s nurse practitioner. She was not convinced that meloxicam could be dangerous for older people on blood pressure medicine. Now I am wary of all NSAIDs and take curcumin instead.”

Herta in Glen Covey, New York, was taking meloxicam for pain from sciatica:

“My kidneys failed totally after nine weeks on meloxicam once a day for sciatica pain. This was a year ago. I was in the intensive care unit in the hospital five days.

“The diagnosis was acute interstitial nephritis caused by meloxicam. It took a year for me to recover from severe kidney failure. I think this is a dangerous medication, since nephritis does not always resolve like mine did. The hospital stay was expensive and traumatic.”

Carole takes meloxicam for pain and is carefully monitored:

“I think that if people know the possible side effects of drugs and make the decision to use them anyway it is for them to say. I take meloxicam every day to function. Without it, I hurt all the time. I get kidney function tests every year and they are stable. I am living every day as best I can.”

We completely agree with Carole. As long as people understand the benefits and harms of a medication, they can determine if it is a reasonable trade off. Tracking kidney function is very important when taking any NSAID.

Chris in Texas had a big BP problem when taking meloxicam for pain:

“I have osteoarthritis in my spine, knees and shoulders. In addition, I have had three compression fractures in my spine. My pain specialist added meloxicam to my treatment regimen along with Percocet. This opioid helps control my pain!

“I’m 5’11” and about 145 pounds. Due to my thin build, I’ve always had normal/low blood pressure. It typically runs around 120 over 70.

“Within days of starting meloxicam, I began to have high blood pressure, as high as 160 over 95! I haven’t seen a reading less than 140 over 82 since starting meloxicam.”

“I sometimes have white coat hypertension in the doctor’s office. The highest my blood pressure ever got in the doctor’s office was 128/80. I am 50 years old. I realize that as people get older their blood pressure can go up, but it seems the main cause of my hypertension is meloxicam.”

“Now that I have stopped taking meloxicam for pain I am hoping my BP will return to my normal 120 over 70 soon. The ringing in my ears is reason enough to stop this medication.

“Take charge of YOUR healthcare folks. Educate yourselves and challenge your health care providers at every turn.

Alternatives to Oral NSAIDs:

You no doubt have heard the expression, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Many health professionals believe that NSAIDs are all they have to treat pain now that opioids are frowned upon.

We think such a philosophy is short sighted. There are many other options worth consideration. Topical NSAIDs are much less likely to cause bleeding ulcers or hypertension, though some sensitive people will react to drugs like Voltaren Gel (topical diclofenac).

Other options include herbs such as ashwagandha, boswellia, bromelain, ginger and turmeric. There are also home remedies like vinegar and juice. We have three vinegar and juice recipes in our book, Alternatives for Arthritis. It also explains in detail how the anti-inflammatory herbs work to ease the pain of sore joints.

What’s the straight and skinny on dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, MSM and SAMe? You will find answers and references to support them in The Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

Perhaps you know someone with aches and pains. It’s never too early to do some holiday shopping. This little book is perfect for someone who has stiffness in fingers or knees. Here is a link to find it in our book store.

Share your own story about meloxicam for pain in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis (book)

This 100+ page book provides information on a variety of herbal and home remedy-base treatment options for Arthritis. Are there safer options than NSAIDs?

Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis (book)
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How reliable and safe are biopharmaceutical medications, like Methotrexate, Enbrel, Inflectra, Plaquenil, etc., for treating rheumatoid arthritis?

I have a question about Sam-E. It says it is for moods, joints and liver. My vet recommended it for my dog whose liver enzymes were elevated. Said it’s sold over the counter, and you should repeat blood work in a couple of weeks. So if it can be used for joint pain and liver have you had anyone to comment about it?

Prior to my hip replacement I was prescribed Meloxicam for pain. During the two days I took this drug I gained eight pounds, was still in extreme pain, and had horrible diarrhea. The same thing happened with diclofenac. I did not take my blood pressure while taking these painkillers but I suspect, based on the quick weight gain, that my blood pressure was adversely affected, too.

I think meloxicam is a miracle drug for me. I am 86 years old and have an occasional pain in a knee or shoulder joint. I take one meloxicam and the pain is gone in 6 hours or less. I do not need to take another pill. I can go for months without taking any but when I need it it works like a charm.

This drug is effective in relieving pain. But it can cause problems, too. You can’t take it if you are taking aspirin or anticoagulants and a few other medications. I have been taking it intermittently for quite a long time. But only usually for three or four days. Then I stop it for a while, at least a week, and then I start again. I think this is reasonably safe.

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