Overview and Frequently Asked Questions
What are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, are a class of medication which is used to alleviate the symptoms of pain, inflammation/swelling, or fever.
What medications are considered NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are one of the most commonly prescribed medications. They can be found as a prescription medication or over-the-counter. There are many different types, with examples including:
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
What is the typical dose for NSAIDs?
It depends on which NSAID you are taking. NSAIDs can be taken when needed or on a regular basis. To be effective, some NSAIDs need to be taken every few hours while others are only taken once daily.
How do NSAIDs work?
NSAIDs cause inhibition to an important step in the body’s inflammatory process. By doing so, inflammation, as well as pain and fever caused by inflammation, is reduced.
How quickly do NSAIDs work?
The effect of most NSAIDs is within hours, although it can take longer. Some NSAIDs may need a week or two to reach their full effect, depending on what they are treating.
Which NSAID is the best? Ibuprofen must be the weakest if it is only over the counter and does not require a prescription?
No NSAID is necessarily better or worse than another. Each NSAID works slightly different than the next and in any individual patient, they may prefer one over another. It is not always predictable. While ibuprofen does not last as long as some of the other NSAIDs, for a given person, it may work the best.
I thought Celecoxib (Celebrex) is a new better type of NSAID?
Celecoxib is a newer NSAID, but for any given individual, it does not necessarily work better than other NSAIDs. The advantage of Celecoxib over other NSAIDs is a decrease risk for developing heartburn or stomach ulcers.
What are the possible side effects of NSAIDs?
NSAIDs have the potential for many side effects, particularly for individuals at higher risk. Always discuss with your physician to ensure NSAIDs are right for you, particularly if you will be using them on a regular basis. Side effects may include:
Heartburn, Stomach ulcers, diarrhea
Increased Blood Pressure
Decreased Kidney Function
Increased risk for Heart Attack
Increased risks at certain times during pregnancy
What can I do to reduce the risk for side effects?
Ensure that NSAIDs are right for you. There are alternative pain relievers that may be more appropriate. Specifically, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a safe pain reliever with few of the side effects of NSAIDs.
Let your doctor know if you have ever had heartburn, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and kidney or heart problems.
Follow your physician’s instructions; do not take more than instructed.
Do not take more than 1 type of NSAID at the same, or even the same day.
Some NSAIDs can be given topically rather than by mouth, reducing the risk for side effects to other areas of the body. Ask your physician if this applies to you.
If you get heartburn or stomach pain with NSAIDs, tell your doctor. While you may have to stop taking it, there may be other ways your doctor can help.
Are there any medications to avoid when taking NSAIDs?
NSAIDs can interfere with a variety of other medications. Check with your doctor to ensure they are safe for you.
NSAIDs are safe with other medications used in the normal treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, including DMARDs and Biologics.
NSAIDs can be safely used with acetaminophen (Tylenol).
What should I do if I miss a dose?
You can safely take your dose later in the day. If you do not remember until the next day, just take your regular dose; do not take a double dose.
How can I safely stop NSAIDs?
It is safe to just stop NSAIDs; you do not need to slowly reduce the dose.