Approach to managing musculoskeletal pain: acetaminophen, cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, or traditional NSAIDs?
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OBJECTIVE: To provide family physicians and pharmacists with practical, evidence- and expertise-based guidance on choosing the safest approach to using analgesics to manage patients with musculoskeletal pain. SOURCES OF INFORMATION: Health care providers from family practice, rheumatology, gastroenterology, hepatology, internal medicine, and pharmacy participated in an educational needs assessment regarding the management of pain and the safety of commonly used analgesics. Feedback from one-on-one interviews was compiled and distributed to participants who selected key topics. Topics chosen formed the basis for the discussions of this multidisciplinary panel that reviewed data on the safety of analgesics, particularly in regard to comorbidity and concurrent use with other therapies. MAIN MESSAGE: Treatment should begin with an effective analgesic with the best safety profile at the lowest dose and escalate to higher doses and different analgesics as required. Acetaminophen is a safe medication that should be considered first-line therapy. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are associated with potential adverse gastrointestinal, renal, hepatic, and cardiovascular effects. Physicians should not prescribe NSAIDs before taking a careful history and doing a physical examination so they have the information they need to weigh the risks (adverse effects and potential drug interactions) and benefits for individual patients. CONCLUSION: Taking a complete and accurate history and doing a physical examination are essential for choosing the safest analgesic for a particular patient.
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