Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Osteoarthritis Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and Arthritis

NSAIDs -- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- are a type of pain reliever. At prescription doses, these drugs also reduce inflammation. Inflammation is the body's response to irritation or injury and is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling, and pain. NSAIDs are used to treat a variety of conditions that cause pain and inflammation, including arthritis and tendinitis. NSAIDs are also used to treat pain from injury or other causes of long-term pain.

Over-the-Counter Anti-inflammatory Drugs

NSAIDs that can be purchased over-the-counter include:

BRAND NAMEGENERIC NAME
Advil, Motrinibuprofen
Alevenaproxen sodium
Ascriptin, Bayer, Ecotrinaspirin

 

Ibuprofen is also available as a prescription at doses higher than the over-the-counter medications.

Prescription Anti-inflammatory Drugs

The following NSAIDs are available only with a doctor's prescription: 

BRAND NAMEGENERIC NAME
Anaproxnaproxen sodium
Celebrexcelecoxib
Clinorilsulindac
Dayprooxaprozin
Disalcidsalsalate
Dolobiddiflunisal
Feldenepiroxicam
Indocinindomethacin
Lodineetodolac
Mobicmeloxicam
Naprosynnaproxen
Relafennabumetone
Toradolketorolac tromethamine
Vimovonaproxen/esomeprazole
Voltarendiclofenac

All prescription NSAIDs have a warning that the medications may increase the chance of having a heart attack, stroke, and stomach bleeding.

How Do NSAIDs Work?

NSAIDs work by blocking the production of certain chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.

Do All NSAIDs Work the Same Way?

There appears to be no fundamental difference in the ability of different NSAIDs to reduce pain and inflammation. However, you might find that you get more relief from one NSAID over another and some NSAIDs may have fewer side effects than others. The effect differs from person to person. Some NSAIDs also may be more convenient, since they only need be taken once or twice a day.

What Are the Common Side Effects of NSAIDs?

Although NSAIDs are reasonably safe medications, it is important that you are aware of potential side effects. All NSAIDs carry a warning on the label about the risks of potential heart attack, stroke, and stomach bleeding.

NSAIDs are safest when low doses are taken for brief periods. Side effects most commonly occur if you are taking large doses over a prolonged time (months or years). Some side effects are mild and go away on their own or after reducing the dose. Others may be more serious and need medical attention.

Common side effects of NSAIDs include:

  • Stomach pain and heartburn
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Increased bleeding tendency while taking NSAIDs, especially aspirin. Your doctor might tell you to stop NSAIDs before surgery. Ask your doctor before taking NSAIDs if you are on blood-thinning medications (such as Coumadin).
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears may result from certain NSAIDs, including aspirin. This can usually be improved by decreasing the dose.
  • Allergic reactions such as rashes, wheezing, and throat swelling
  • Liver or kidney problems. These problems can be evaluated by blood tests in people who take NSAIDs for prolonged periods. People with any kidney problems should not take NSAIDs without checking with their doctor.
  • High blood pressure
  • Leg swelling

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Ice pack on knee
Article
Sore feet with high heel shoes
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman with pain increased by rainy weather
Slideshow
Woman in gym
SLIDESHOW
 
Keep Joints Healthy
SLIDESHOW
Chronic Pain Healthcheck
HEALTH CHECK
 
close up of man with gut
Article
man knee support
Article
 
woman with cold compress
QUIZ
Man doing tai chi
Article
 
hand gripping green rubber ball
Slideshow
person walking with assistance
Slideshow