Everyone among us would have experienced pain either due to injury, sprain or aches from physical exertion. The older ones among us will also be familiar with aching joints and troublesome back pain. In most cases, if you have taken a pill to relieve that pain, it more than likely belongs to a class of medication called Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (abbreviated as NSAIDs). If you have heard the names Aspirin, Ibuprofen or Diclofenac, you are familiar with them.
Inflammation is a biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens. The function of this inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury and repair the tissue damage. However, the response is not always precise and contained to the area of injury. It also is often accompanied by redness, swelling, and pain. Medicines are sometimes required to control and limit the residual damage caused by inflammation. Steroids have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, however, they also tend to have several unwanted effects on the body. NSAIDs are considered relatively safe and effective at relieving inflammation and the symptoms accompanying it and hence are the most commonly prescribed analgesics. Additionally, since they do not act on the opioid pathway, they have no addiction potential.
NSAIDs are used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, other inflammatory arthropathies, pain caused by gout, muscle ache of cold or flu or any other origin, backache, period or menstrual pain, joint or bone injuries, sprains and strains, and toothache. NSAIDs are usually taken for less severe types of pain than for pain sustaining for a long-term, and of a severe nature. They not only reduce inflammation and relieve pain but also aid in lowering high body temperatures or fever and prevent blood from clotting.
Other uses for NSAIDs such as aspirin, is in the prevention of heart attacks, to prevent stroke and clot formation. They also have been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
NSAIDs usually do not cause any severe side effects. They should be avoided in children under 16, except under the supervision of a doctor, since some children can experience a severe allergic reaction that can cause damage to the liver and other organs. They can irritate the gut and cause gastritis and bleeding in the stomach. It is better to avoid alcohol when taking these drugs.
People who are already on medication for some other medical condition even if it is herbal or natural treatment must take these drugs only under the doctor’s supervision. If you notice any of the following symptoms then stop taking NSAIDs immediately and seek the doctor’s advice – swollen ankles; difficulty breathing; black stools; dark, coffee-colored vomit.