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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 NAME GENERIC NAME
Advil, Motrin ibuprofen
Aleve naproxen sodium
Ascriptin, Bayer, Ecotrin aspirin

 

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 NAME GENERIC NAME
Anaprox naproxen sodium
Celebrex celecoxib
Clinoril sulindac
Daypro oxaprozin
Disalcid salsalate
Dolobid diflunisal
Feldene piroxicam
Indocin indomethacin
Lodine etodolac
Mobic meloxicam
Naprosyn naproxen
Relafen nabumetone
Toradol ketorolac tromethamine
Vimovo naproxen/esomeprazole
Voltaren diclofenac

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.

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