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Tylenol Alert!

Are OTC pain relievers as safe as we think?

Did you know that a recent Health Canada data implicates over the counter pain relief acetaminophen medication, (i.e. tylenol), as the leading cause of liver damage?! It can lead to severe health consequences and some doctors are even calling for a reduction in the strength of doses available over the counter.

This data, released as a CBC report, is really startling, for 2 reasons:

1. I actually know people who seem to treat Tylenol as if it belonged to a food group. Taking doses of the stuff on a regular basis to deal with mild-moderate aches and pains. You can imagine how common this is with the context of a chronic pain clinic. Within my personal friends and family, it is usually headache caused by stress which creates the demand for Tylenol… it sometimes seems that stress and headache are a normal part of our modern, busy lives, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’m not alone in observing a dependence for Tylenol and similar OTC pain relief medications amongst some friends, family, co-workers.

2. As a physio, I would routinely tell my patients that ice, rest, elevation… and a tylenol was a good way to deal with inflammation and after-treatment soreness. It is a good home strategy for pain relief of muscle and joint pain. But, as I will be highlighting to my patients, it is not without risk.

This recent CBC report puts me in a bit of a professional quandary… do I continue to recommend Tylenol? If I do so, am I responsible to know if my patients are already using Tylenol for an unrelated reason? If they are, will taking more or a stronger dose of Tylenol may take them beyond their daily safe dose?

As I say, the information startled me, and made me think. When I spoke with Dr. Laura at the clinic about it, she had some ideas on a gentler and safer alternative found right in the kitchen: Turmeric! So she wrote a blog post about it too. We’ll be trying the turmeric alternative with interested patients at the clinic as part of their home care.

For more reading, I refer you to:

CBC report, prepared by Aina Zafar and released on September 16, 2016.
Dr. Laura’s blog post: Turmeric: A Natural Alternative To Acetaminophen

In health,

Estelle Barry MCISc(PT), MCPA

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