Q. My husband was just released from the hospital as a result of taking naproxen for tendinitis. He used it exactly as prescribed, and it still caused more trouble than it was worth.
He had severe gastrointestinal bleeding, so bad that he needed a blood transfusion with 3 units of blood. He was in ICU for four days. The doctor and nurses said that people who take high doses of this pain reliever often end up with gastrointestinal bleeding. What other options are there for pain and inflammation?
A. Naproxen and other NSAIDs, such as Celebrex, ibuprofen, diclofenac, meloxicam and nabumetone, are frequently prescribed for inflammatory conditions like tendinitis, bursitis or arthritis. Long-term use of such drugs poses a risk of life-threatening bleeding like your husband experienced. They can also raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes (Rheumatology International, online Dec. 22, 2011).
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is less likely to cause digestive upset or bleeding, but it may raise blood pressure (Circulation, Nov. 2, 2010) and increase the risk of asthma (Pediatrics, Dec. 2011). High doses can be hard on the liver.
Such complications may explain why home remedies are so popular. Fish oil, tart cherries, gin-soaked raisins, grape juice and apple cider vinegar, vitamin D and pineapple all have their enthusiasts. Our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis provides details on how to use such approaches.
Topical NSAID gels and lotions may be one way to ease joint pain or tendinitis without as much risk of side effects.