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Used to treat pain in a number of medical conditions, Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are also used to treat inflammation which often produces or worsens pain by causing stiffness and swelling. Some NSAIDs are available with a doctor’s prescription. These “over the counter,” or OTC medications, include low-dose (200 mg) ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, Nuprin®, etc.), and low-dose naproxen (Aleve®, etc.). They are safe and effective medications for the vast majority of patients taking them in appropriate doses. Other NSAIDs are only available with a doctor’s prescription.

Before using NSAIDs

  1. Carefully read all directions.
  2. Follow any advice and/or precautions.
  3. Do not take the medicine if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reactions to aspirin, any over-the-counter NSAIDs or any other medicine used to treat pain, fever, swelling, or arthritis.
  4. Make sure that the medication is compatible with any other medications you are taking. Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you don’t know.
  5. Check with your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, intend to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.
  6. Notify your healthcare provider if you have any bleeding or blood-clotting problems.
  7. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have it history or gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcer before taking NSAIDs.

How to use NSAIDs.

  1. Use only as directed by your healthcare provider.
  2. Take NSAIDs with food and a full glass of water (8 ounces). You may also take them with antacids.
  3. Take only for the prescribed time period recommended by your healthcare provider.
  4. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible with food and water. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular schedule. Do NOT double dose.

Precautions while using NSAIDs.

  1. If you take NSAIDs for prolonged periods (months), make sure you have regular check-ups by your healthcare provider.
  2. Notify your healthcare provider if you regularly consume alcoholic beverages. Your medications may need to be modified.
  3. Serious side effects resulting in severe and even life-threatening illness (from such problems as bleeding ulcers) can occur without warning.
  4. Do not take other NSAIDs, including over-the-counter NSAIDs (Advil, Nuprin, Aleve) and aspirin, with this prescription. Continuing the use of daily single low-dose aspirin compounds for prevention of cardiovascular conditions is usually acceptable.
  5. NSAIDs can also affect other medical conditions such as high blood pressure, kidney problems, asthma, and others. Make sure you have informed your healthcare provider about all your medical problems and all the medications you take (prescription and over-the-counter, including vitamins and homeopathic compounds) before taking this new medication.
  6. Since some NSAIDs can cause drowsiness; make sure you know how you react to the NSAID before operating machinery or other jobs that require you to be alert.

Possible side effects.

There are a number of mild problems that can be associated with NSAID use. Mild nausea, indigestion, or heartburn can be common and are often prevented by taking the medication on a full stomach with plenty of water. Other mild side effects include mild diarrhea and mild lightheadedness and/or drowsiness. These mild side effects will usually go away. However, if they continue or are bothersome, check with your healthcare provider and stop taking the medication.

Although rare, severe side effects can occur with NSAID use that affect many different organ systems. You should immediately stop taking the medication and contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  1. Severe nausea, heartburn or abdominal pain;
  2. Bloody or black, tarry stools;
  3. Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds;
  4. Recurrent nose bleeds or bleeding from the mouth or gums or other unusual bleeding;
  5. Easy and severe bruising;
  6. Hives or swelling of the face, eyelids, mouth, lips, or tongue;
  7. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing;
  8. Wheezing;
  9. Tightness in the chest or chest pains;
  10. Sudden, unexplained weight gain;
  11. Sudden decrease in the amount of urine production;
  12. Convulsions or seizures;
  13. Elevated blood pressure.

The above information has been taken from a public education series brochure written by the North American Spine Society

This information is selective and does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions of NSAIDs. If you have any questions, contact your healthcare provider for more information. This is provided for general information and understanding only and is not intended to represent the official policy of the North American Spine Society. Please consult your healthcare provider for specific information about your condition.

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