The Dangers of Treating Carpal Tunnel with Painkillers

We all grew up with a controller in one hand and a mouse in the other. We’re so used to typing on keyboards, clicking a mouse or mashing buttons on controllers that we were all destined for two things: an intuitive understanding of technology and carpal tunnel.

Carpal tunnel builds slowly, causing an odd tingling sensation in your dominate digits — think thumb, index and middle fingers — the ones we primarily use on all our high-speed tech. Even with between 4–10 million cases in the United States per year, there’s no reason to panic just yet.

There’s actually more danger to us by mistreating painkillers to block the pain than in the carpal tunnel itself.


Doctor’s Orders?

Long before surgery ever comes to the table, your doctor will recommend nonsurgical methods like an over-the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDS) — think ibuprofen. It’s one thing to take Advil when your doctor tells you to, but it’s another matter entirely to start taking heavier painkillers to self-medicate.

Drug abuse doesn’t always start as a transition, like marijuana to pills. For someone who’s never used drugs, thinking that medication prescribed by your doctor can be treated as “pills” that a drug dealer pushes doesn’t even cross your mind. However, prescription painkillers are much sought after by drug abusers because they often work too well.

And that’s how a normal, law-abiding person ends up addicted to painkillers. Something hurts, so they take the “safe” medication once prescribed by their doctor. It fixes the pain just fine, but it also increases the chances of developing an addiction. Even scarier, the same can happen when you overuse over-the-counter drugs.

Over-the-Counter Medicine

It isn’t time to empty out your medicine cabinet. While over-the-counter drugs aren’t risk free, understanding their limitations will increase your ability to use them properly, without fear of addiction or abuse. Plus, your body can develop a tolerance to over-the-counter medication, just like any other drug.

Even for certain medications, like acetaminophen, where your body will not develop a tolerance, overuse can negatively impact other parts of your body — like your liver or your stomach. Generally, this abuse is accidental.

Worried about steering clear of this issue? It’s as easy as following the instructions on the medicine’s label or contacting your physician.

Prescription Medicine Use

Have you ever wondered why prescription medicine is doled out by a doctor? Remember when you couldn’t get pink-eye medicine or, more recently, Flonase without first seeing your doctor? That’s the FDA attempting to protect U.S. citizens from accidentally creating additional health issues.

When even the most helpful drug can lead to additional health problems, should you even risk taking stronger meds? Of course, because it’s not actually a huge risk. Follow your doctor’s orders, and if you have prescription medicine leftover after your illness, dispose of it. Just follow safe disposal guidelines to protect your personal information, prevent someone else from stealing and abusing it and to protect the environment.

Technology has exponentially increased how much stress we place on our fingers and wrists, which has resulted in an increase in carpal tunnel throughout the population. Thankfully, this condition can be managed for a prolonged period with common over-the-counter medication. Just be sure you follow your doctor’s advice and don’t risk damaging your health with inadvertent painkiller abuse.

Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and designer, and she blogs at Miss Rx. You can see more of her work or get in touch by following @foodierx on Twitter.

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