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What Are NSAIDs And How Do They Work?

What Are NSAIDs And How Do They Work?
What Are NSAIDs And How Do They Work?

What Are Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Commonly Known As NSAIDs?

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are a class of painkillers also known as NSAIDs. A medicine generally used to treat fever, mild to moderate pain and reduce inflammation.
In physiotherapy nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories are commonly used to treat headaches, sports injuries, arthritis, muscle aches…

How Do NSAIDs Work?

NSAIDs block COX enzymes and reduce prostaglandins throughout the body. Prostaglandins are chemicals produced by the body with several important functions. Prostaglandins promote inflammation, inflammation that is necessary for healing but this also results in pain, and fever. Prostaglandins support blood clotting and protect the stomach lining from the damaging effects of stomach acid.
Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories can reduce ongoing inflammation, pain, and fever. However seeing as prostaglandins protect the stomach and support platelets in blood clotting NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers and promote bleeding.

What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Taking NSAIDs?

Although risks associated with taking NSAIDs might be small for young, healthy people. Risks are inevitably higher for the elderly and individuals who have multiple illnesses and take several medicines concurrently. Research linking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories with an increased risk of stroke previously received widespread publicity. NSAIDs having an increase risk in causing a stroke may impact some individuals more than others…

  • The Dose, Frequency and Duration: The lower dose, the less frequent you use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and the shorter duration of NSAIDs use the lower the risk.
  • Age: If you’re younger, your existing stroke risk is low to start with.
  • General Health Status: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking all increase your stroke risk.

Aside from the increased risk of stroke, the use of NSAIDs are known to have side effects on the stomach and gut ranging from a mild upset stomach to, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, internal bleeding, ulcers, perforation of the stomach or intestines… The effects on the stomach and intestinal tracts can be serious.

Some other common side effects associated with the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Fluid retention
  • Kidney failure (primarily with chronic use)
  • Liver failure
  • Prolonged bleeding after injury or surgery

Some individuals may also be allergic to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. People with asthma are at higher risk for experiencing serious allergic reaction to NSAIDs and may develop shortness of breath when after taking this medication.
As always contact your doctor immediately if any of these serious side effects occur or if you notice other effects not listed above, then contact your doctor or pharmacist issuing the medication.

Do Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Interact With Other Medications?

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories reduce blood flow to the kidneys, therefore reducing the action of diuretics.
  • They also decrease blood clotting, used with other drugs that increase bleeding such as warfarin or other anticoagulants there is an increased likelihood of complications of bleeding or serious bleeding.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may also increase blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure (hypertension). Therefore people medicated for hypertension may need to be careful taking NSAIDs.
  • Not only may NSAIDs have an interaction with other medications but people drinking alcoholic beverages daily may have an increased risk of developing stomach ulcers when taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

Please Note: Sydney physiotherapists are not registered to prescribe NSAIDs or any other medications.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic provides this information as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on What Are NSAIDs And How Do They Work? should consult his or her general practitioner, sports medicine specialist, orthopedic surgeon, pharmacist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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