Ibuprofen may not be the safest treatment for pain

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Ibuprofen may not be the safest medication to treat chronic pain.

That doesn't necessarily mean ibuprofen medications like Advil are unsafe, but a new study found celecoxib — marketed as Celebrex — may have fewer risks than other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Thousands of patients with chronic pain were put on regular doses of celecoxib, ibuprofen or naproxen (the drug found in Aleve) for roughly two years.

Participants in the study were taking these drugs to treat conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Many doctors have been prescribing ibuprofen or naproxen first because celecoxib and similar drugs were believed to cause heart problems.

But in the study, celecoxib did not cause more heart attacks, strokes or deaths compared to ibuprofen, and it actually showed a lower risk for kidney problems.

The study's lead author said, "In almost every measure, ibuprofen looks worse, naproxen is intermediate and celecoxib is the best."

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Before you switch away from ibuprofen, though, here are a couple things to keep in mind.

If you don't have a heart problem and don't take the medication regularly, you shouldn't have to worry about any added heart risks.

Plus, the study didn't evaluate celecoxib's effectiveness at treating chronic pain –– researchers were just looking at whether taking the drug came with added health risks.

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Insurance companies often cover ibuprofen and naproxen, though, because previous studies have shown they're effective treatments.

The study also only compared the three drugs at standard doses and didn't address possible problems for any of the medications if the dosage is changed.

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Common warnings for over the counter painkiller use
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Common warnings for over the counter painkiller use

NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can cause damage to the stomach lining, including the possibility of stomach ulcers.

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Any blood thinner can come with excessive risks of bleeding and heart attacks. 

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Painkillers with acetaminophen can cause liver damage, and no painkiller should be taken with alcohol.

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Kidney problems can arise in patients who generally already have risk factors for kidney failure.

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NSAIDs pose a risk of miscarriage when used by women during the first 20 weeks. 

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NSAIDs may reduce the effectiveness of some antidepressants. 

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