Conditions that might necessitate NSAID treatment include osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis. NSAID treatment is also effective in treating chronic back pain, sprains, and headache. An orthopedic condition known as ankylosing spondylitis also responds well to NSAID treatment. Ibuprofen and aspirin are examples of NSAID medications, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They are available over the counter or by prescription.
When NSAID treatment is started, pain relief is often quick and dramatic. These medications are usually well tolerated by most people, but both mild and serious side effects can occur. Mild side effects from NSAID treatment include stomach pain, diarrhea, and nausea. Serious side effects may include fluid retention, gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney damage, and heart irregularities. When side effects are noticed, the health care provider can recommend an alternative treatment plan and evaluate the significance of the side effects.
Some people are unable to tolerate the gastrointestinal side effects of NSAID treatment, and for them, alternative methods of pain relief are available, such as drugs containing acetaminophen. This medications can relieve pain, but do not have anti-inflammatory properties. People who are taking daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes might not be candidates for NSAID treatment. Taking aspirin and NSAIDs might cause the blood to become excessively thin and cause prolonged or unusual bleeding. Talking to a health care provider can help determine if NSAIDs can safely be taken in conjunction with anticoagulant medications.
Those who suffer from kidney disease or high blood pressure should talk to their health care providers before taking NSAIDs. These medications can cause temporary or permanent damage to the kidneys and may also result in elevations of blood pressure. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can occur. These include swelling or closing of the throat, chest pressure or pain, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Hives, itching, and skin rash can also occur in response to an allergic reaction. These manifestations are medical emergencies and require quick evaluation and intervention.
Post-surgical patients are often prescribed NSAIDs for post-operative pain and swelling. Since these medications are considered to be very safe, they are sometimes preferred over prescription narcotics. NSAIDs generally do not cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and dependence in the way that narcotic analgesics can. In cases where pain is severe and unmanageable despite treatment with NSAIDs, the health care provider may recommend the use of prescription narcotic pain relievers.