Finding the safest, most effective pain relief may be a little complicated for people with heart failure.
There are plenty of pills on the market that promise pain relief. But how do you decide which one to take? If you have heart failure, the answer is especially important because certain pain medications called NSAIDs can make heart failure worse. Taking them could land you in the hospital.
Heart failure and pain
Just about everyone, including those who have heart failure, gets aches and pains from time to time. Arthritis and other painful conditions are often treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs can reduce pain and inflammation.
But NSAIDs can also make the body retain sodium and water and decrease kidney function. This can especially be a problem for people with heart failure.
If you retain too much water, it can make it harder for your already weakened heart to pump. This can cause fluid to build up in your lungs and lead to increased symptoms and worsening of your heart failure. NSAIDs can also interfere with certain heart failure medications and make them less effective.
Sorting out one NSAID from another
Aspirin is the most familiar NSAID. Others include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and the prescription-only celecoxib (Celebrex). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a not an NSAID pain reliever.
What is best for you?
If you have heart failure, it’s important to talk about pain relief with your doctor. Even though you can get many pain relievers over-the-counter, it’s important to check with your doctor for possible side effects before you take them.
The most effective pain relief may not involve any drugs at all. Doctors often suggest that people first try physical therapy, exercise, weight loss, or hot and cold therapy to control pain. If those measures aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend acetaminophen.
Aspirin is a special case
Even aspirin should not be taken for aches and pains without talking to your doctor first. Your doctor may have prescribed a low-dose aspirin pill to take every day to prevent heart attack and stroke. Usually this dose does not interfere with other heart failure medications, but check with your doctor to make sure.
Ibuprofen, naproxen, and other NSAIDs
In general, doctors recommend against taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), the prescription-only celecoxib (Celebrex), and other NSAIDs when you have heart failure. But in some cases, your doctor may feel it is safe for you to take NSAIDs for a short time.
In fact, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before you take any over-the-counter drugs, including sleep aids, cold and flu medications, and even supplements and herbal remedies when you have heart failure. Many medications like these contain an NSAID, such as ibuprofen, as one of the active ingredients.