Pros and Cons of NSAID Medications

Injuries and chronic conditions both lead to pain; luckily there are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to help. These medications are great for short-term relief, but they do have their limitations.

At Commonwealth Musculoskeletal Medicine, our team wants to help you get your chronic pain under control. Dr. Mark Conliffe is our specialist who helps you find the best way to help get your pain under control with physical medicine and other helpful treatments. 

What are NSAID medications?

NSAIDs, also known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, are a type of medication that helps with inflammatory conditions like arthritis. They’re probably the most prescribed type of medication for mild to moderate pain. Aspirin and ibuprofen are two of the most common types of NSAID medications.

These medications are great for alleviating pain, but also have other uses as well. For example, if you have a fever, they help to lower your temperature. NSAIDs also reduce inflammation in your body, and also reduce the ability of your blood to clot. This is sometimes a good thing, but not for everybody. 

So how do these drugs work? NSAIDs help with pain and inflammation by inhibiting certain enzymes in your body. These enzymes are known as COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 helps protect your stomach lining and helps with kidney function, while COX-2 is an enzyme that appears after joint damage happens.

Advantages of NSAIDs

NSAID medications have several advantages over other types of medications—with one major advantage being that they aren’t addictive. Many pain medications, especially narcotics, are highly addictive, especially with prolonged use. NSAID medications may be taken on and off for periods of time without becoming addictive.

Another advantage is that these medications help fight the inflammatory process in your body, which is especially helpful in conditions like arthritis. Its effects are also very helpful right after you’ve suffered an injury, as this is the time when inflammation is at its highest.

These medications not only help painful conditions like arthritis, they also help with run-of-the-mill ailments such as:

NSAIDs also have the ability to be antipyretic, meaning they help to reduce your temperature when you’re running a fever. Over-the-counter versions of these medications are also relatively inexpensive compared to other treatments. These medications have a lot of medical advantages, but they also come with some disadvantages as well.

Tread carefully when taking NSAIDs

Because these medications prevent the enzymes COX-1 and COX-2 from working, it can lead to certain side effects, especially with prolonged use. Since COX-1 protects your stomach from abrasive acids, when it is inhibited, you may end up with an upset stomach or heartburn. Other symptoms that you may experience include:

If you take these medications frequently, you’re at risk for stomach ulcers, because of the increase in stomach acid and decreased protection from your enzymes. These stomach ulcers may bleed, also leading to a condition known as anemia.

Chronic use of NSAID medications may also lead to serious issues like kidney damage or liver failure. This is commonly only seen if you take these medications more than you should, or if you have pre-existing problems that make you more prone to kidney problems.

Rarely, you may have an allergic reaction to an NSAID, which can range from a mild rash to severe anaphylaxis. If you feel any kind of shortness of breath or have a widespread rash, discontinue the medication immediately, and contact Dr. Conliffe right away.

When you need other pain relief options, Dr. Conliffe can help. Call our office at 502-771-1012, or book an appointment online today.

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