What Is an NSAID? - Use, Side Effects & Example

Instructor: Virginia Rawls

Virginia has a master' degree in Education and a bachelors in Sports Medicine/athletic Training

Have you ever had back pain or muscle soreness and taken medication to feel better? If so, then you have already been introduced to an NSAID. Read on to learn about this common medication as well as its uses and side effects.

What Is an NSAID?

NSAID (pronounced en-sed) is an abbreviation that stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. This medications does not contain steroids and removes fluid in an area to help decrease inflammation and pain. Believe it or not, you probably have used NSAIDs before. Examples of some more commonly known NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen, Aleve, and Celebrex.

Uses

An NSAID can be used as a pain reliever, inflammation and fever reducer, and even for prevention of blood clots. Many are over-the-counter medications, which means that you do not need a prescription from your doctor to buy them. There are some NSAIDs that are prescription strength, but still do many of the same things as the over-the-counter brands.

Here are some examples of conditions that can be treated with NSAIDs:

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Muscle injuries
  • Headaches
  • Inflammation (swelling)
  • Arthritis
  • Pain
  • Fever

Certain NSAIDs are used to treat more specific conditions:

  • Aspirin for the prevention of blood clots, stroke and heart attacks
  • Celebrex for the prevention of colon polyps
  • Toradol as an extreme pain reliever

NSAIDs are usually taken orally, or by mouth, and they are generally taken with water. The dosage varies depending on your body size and the condition that you are trying to treat. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few days to begin feeling the effects of such medications. For example, if you are taking the medication for a headache, it may only take a half-hour to feel relief. On the other hand, if you are taking the medication for prevention of blood clots, it can take up to a week before your doctor sees results during blood testing.

Side Effects

Just because this medication does not require a prescription doesn't mean that there aren't risks associated with taking NSAIDs. Many people can take NSAIDs their whole life and not have one adverse reaction, whereas others might have a negative side effect with the first dosage.

Rashes, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are commonly seen side effects that can occur within minutes or days of taking the medication.

Other more serious side effects usually seen with prolonged use of NSAIDs include heart and kidney problems, high blood pressure, stomach bleeding and ulcers, difficulty breathing and swelling in the feet and ankles.

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