Pain Relief: How NSAIDs Work -all about Nsaids- Ashcroft pharmacy uk

The Truth About NSAIDs: Safe Use for Pain Management

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What are NSAIDs?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs commonly known as NSAIDs are a class of drugs used to treat Osteoarthritis {OA}, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and lower fever.

Although these drugs are used to relieve pain they don’t contain Corticosteroids, unlike steroids. These medications are available both over-the-counter {OTC} and by prescription.

NSAID tablets include aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and creams that you apply to your skin (topical NSAIDs exist as creams or gels for localized pain relief).

For conditions like arthritis, your doctor can describe a more targeted version like celecoxib. Other health problems that can be treated with NSAIDs are muscle pain, headaches, and menstrual cramps.

Common NSAIDs

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Aspirin (Bayer, Excedrin)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren)

What are NSAIDs used for?

Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs are used to treat a range of conditions associated with pain and inflammation.

These drugs are commonly prescribed for: 

  • Osteoarthritis arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Treating acute pain conditions such as sprains, strains, toothaches, gout, bursitis, backaches, and other musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Used to alleviate headaches including migraines
  • Used to reduce fever in illnesses such as the common cold or flu.
  • Also, women use NSAIDs to relieve menstrual cramps and discomfort.
  • Used to ease joint swelling that comes from inflammation.

How should you use NSAIDs for pain management?

The best way to take NSAIDs is to follow the prescription of your health provider or to follow the instructions on the OTC packaging.

For the safe use of the drugs, you should take the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration necessary to manage symptoms.

If you experience gastrointestinal irritations you should take NSAIDs with food or milk. You should also avoid consumption of alcohol and keep your body hydrated thus preventing side effects.

How long can NSAIDs be used? Is it safe to use them long-term?

These NSAIDs which are over-the-counter painkillers are for short-term use. They are not to be used for more than 10 days for pain relief and 3 days for fever.

Taking these drugs for too long will place you at a higher risk of experiencing side effects. In case you need to take NSAIDs regularly for arthritis pain, you need to talk to your doctor for a professional prescription.

Short-Term Use

Acute Pain: NSAIDs are commonly used for short-term relief of acute pain, such as headaches, dental pain, or minor injuries. For these conditions, they are generally safe when used as directed.

Long-Term Use

Chronic Conditions: Conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may require long-term NSAID use. In these cases, the benefits must be weighed against the potential risks, and regular monitoring is essential.

Risks of Long-Term NSAID Use

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Increased risk of stomach ulcers, bleeding, and gastrointestinal perforation.
  • Cardiovascular Risks: Higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and hypertension, especially with prolonged use.
  • Kidney Damage: Potential for chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury.
  • Liver Damage: Possible liver toxicity with high doses or prolonged use.
  • Other Side Effects: Increased risk of certain allergic reactions and skin conditions.
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How quickly do NSAIDs work?

The effectiveness of the NSAIDs depends on the kind of pain you are dealing with, the specific medication, the dosage, and the individual's patient factors such as metabolism.

For short-term or acute pain, such as a headache or muscle strain these drugs relieve the pain in 30 min to a few hours after ingestion.

For ongoing or chronic problems, like arthritis, you need more time to build up a certain amount of the medicine in your bloodstream for it to take effect.

Here is a quick overview of how quickly NSAIDs start working:

The onset of action for NSAIDs can vary based on the specific drug and formulation. Generally, most NSAIDs begin to relieve pain within 30 minutes to an hour after oral administration. For instance:

  • Ibuprofen: Typically starts working within 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Naproxen: May take about 1 to 2 hours to start relieving pain.
  • Aspirin: Usually starts working within 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Celecoxib: Generally begins to take effect within 1 to 3 hours.
  • Diclofenac: Often starts working within 30 minutes to 1 hour.
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NSAIDs side effects

NSAIDs are generally safe to use for minor flares of pain, but they have many possible side effects if you take them for a long time or in high doses.

These side effects include;

  • Gastrointestinal issues such as stomach pain, heartburn, nausea, and indigestion
  • GI bleeding
  • Ulcers
  • Kidney damage
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated risk of heart attack or stroke

Some of the patients may also experience allergic reactions, presenting as skin rashes, hives, or swelling. Your risk of side effects goes up if you take higher doses of NSAIDs or take these drugs over long periods.

How to prevent side effects?

To ensure the safe and effective use of NSAIDs several guidelines should be followed;


you should follow the recommended dosage and the prescribed duration of use given by a doctor or indicated on the packaging.

Medical History:

you should inform your healthcare provider of any existing medical conditions, especially heart disease, kidney problems, and GI issues.

You should discuss with your health provider about any current medication you are using to avoid potential drug interactions.

It is important to monitor symptoms so that you can raise your awareness of the side effects and adverse reactions of the drugs. 

For long-term NSAID users, regular medical check-ups are important to monitor for potential side effects.


What are the 3 Most common NSAIDs?

There are three most common NSAIDs which include:

  1. Naproxen: This is an over-the-counter and prescription drug that is effective for treating pain and inflammation. Naproxen is known for its longer duration of action compared to ibuprofen. The drug is commonly branded as Aleve and Naprosyn.

  2. Asprin: these NSAIDs are known for their pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antipyretic properties. They also have antiplatelet effects which are effective in the prevention of heart attack and stroke. The drug is commonly branded as Beyer and Ecotrin.

  3. Ibuprofen: this medication is available both over-the-counter and by prescription. It is used in relieving pain, inflammation, and fever. The common brand names include Advil and Motrin.
NSAIDs for Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women

Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid NSAIDs unless specifically recommended by their health provider. This is due to the risk that the fetus can experience especially in the third trimester.

NSAIDs can cause a premature closure of the ductus arteries, a vital blood vessel in the fetal heart. For the breastfeeding mother NSAIDs like ibuprofen, are considered relatively safe as they pass into breast milk at low levels.

Are NSAIDs safe?

NSAIDs are generally considered safe when they are used as prescribed. Their safety highly depends on the dosage, the duration of use, and the health condition of the patient.

Therefore it is important to use the drugs as prescribed to prevent serious side effects that are caused by long-term use and high doses.


In conclusion, we can agree that NSAIDs are a vital class of medication used to manage pain, inflammation, and fever. NSAIDs work by inhibiting COX enzymes to reduce prostaglandin production which alleviates inflammation and pain.

For safe use, one should follow the right guidelines as directed by the health provider and prevent the overuse of the medication. By understanding how to use NSAIDs responsibly, you can effectively manage symptoms while minimizing risks.

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