Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or irritation. As a self-defense mechanism, inflammation can be key to determining what is wrong, although reducing that inflammation is crucial to managing your pain.
Instead of prescribing opioids or narcotic pain medications, many physicians recommend taking NSAIDs to relieve aches and pains.
What are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to treat a myriad of symptoms, inflammation, and relieve pain. NSAIDs are sold over-the-counter at a much lower cost than strong pain medications.
NSAIDs are a classification of drugs that prevent the body’s production of an enzyme called cyclooxgenase (COX) from making a chemical – prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are a big trigger of inflammation, fever, and pain. This chemical also has other effects on the body. They maintain the lining of the stomach, promote blood clots, and help kidney functions. If patients take NSAIDs for a long period of time, there can be a negative effect, especially when they are not taken under the supervision of a doctor.
How NSAIDs are Used
NSAIDs are used to treat multiple symptoms such as inflammation and aches caused by chronic pain conditions. Conditions from acute headaches to chronic pain to osteoarthritis can be managed with NSAIDs:
- Muscle aches
- Gout pain
- Activity-related pain
- Neck stiffness
- Post-surgical pain
Common Types of NSAIDs
Although they work similarly, NSAIDs react to everyone differently. They are typically inexpensive and easy to find at local drugstores. Talk to your doctor for specific dosing.
The four most common types of over-the-counter NSAIDs are:
- Aspirin: (Bayer, Ecotrin) In addition to treating pain, fevers, and inflammation, Aspirin may also reduce the risk of heart attacks.
- Ibuprofen: (Advil, Motrin) Ibuprofen treats a range of pain – from post-surgical to headaches. Stronger dosages are available for prescription.
- Naproxen: (Aleve) Naproxen is typically used to treat back pain.
- Celecoxib: (Celebrex) Celecoxib is commonly used to treat arthritis pain.
Dangers of Long-Term NSAID Use
When you suffer from chronic pain, it can become easy to rely on medication. Medications like NSAIDs help patients live more comfortably, but if they are taken over an extended period of time, there in an increased risk of side effects.
Older patients are at a higher risk for experiencing negative side effects. Some of the more common side effects include:
- Stomach ulcers
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots
- Greater potential for bruising
Patients who live with chronic pain should seek the professional help of interventional pain doctors. These are physicians who are highly trained and specialize in diagnosing root causes of chronic pain diseases. Depending on the pain and its severity, a pain doctor can design an individualized treatment plan that reduces the need to take medications, while also reducing pain and improving quality of life.