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What are NSAID pain relievers?

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Quick Answer

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or NSAIDs, treat inflammation, muscle pain, osteoarthritis, backaches, fever and several other types of pain. NSAIDs are available over the counter or in higher doses with a prescription.

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Common over-the-counter NSAIDs include aspirin compounds made by Bayer and Excedrin, ibuprofen sold under the brand names Motrin and Advil, and naproxen sodium sold as Aleve, reports Cleveland Clinic. Like corticosteroids, NSAIDs reduce pain and inflammation that accompany joint and muscle injuries. NSAIDs work by blocking the production of chemicals that cause inflammation in the body. NSAIDs generally begin to relieve pain within a few hours of ingestion, and patients may need to take them every four to six hours to achieve continual pain relief.

Common side effects of NSAIDs include upset stomach, heartburn, stomach pain and diarrhea. Less common but serious side effects include allergic reaction, such as hives or facial swelling, stomach ulcers and elevated blood pressure. A person is more likely to experience these side effects if she is over the age of 60, pregnant, consumes three or more alcoholic drinks every day, or takes medication for high blood pressure or to thin the blood. Additionally, if a person has liver, kidney or heart disease, she should speak with her doctor prior to taking an NSAID, says WebMD.

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