What Are NSAIDs & What Are They Used For?

Did you know that globally, around 30 million people take Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) every day?

These are medications which decrease or relieve pain. The most popular types of drugs in this category are ibuprofen or aspirin. NSAIDs are classed under the broader definition of non-opioid analgesics. When treating patients with less severe pain, Pain Specialists generally prescribe NSAIDs in preference to morphine and other opioid pain relievers. This category of drugs incorporate some of the most widely prescribed pain relievers, such as naproxen and ibuprofen [1].
So now let’s take a look at how NSAIDs work, and are used.

How NSAIDs Help Relieve Pain

Our immune system reacts to injury and infection by generating inflammation. Noticeable signs include: pain, swelling, skin discolouration and heat. When the inflammation comes into force, our body receives pain signals from our nerve receptors. Such signals are the result of intricate interactions and responses between our cells and chemicals in our body [1].

“Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce inflammation, minimising its direct effect on pain-nerve stimulation & sensitivity, as well as decreasing the resulting inflammatory heat & swelling” [1]
Over-the-counter NSAIDs include:
• naproxen sodium
• aspirin
• ibuprofen

NSAIDs prescribed by a Pain Specialist include:

• naproxen/esomeprazole (Vimovo)
• diclofenac (Cataflam)
• nabumetone (Relafen)
• naproxen (Naprosyn)
• etodolac (Lodine)
• indomethacin (Indocin)
• oxaprozin (Daypro) [1].


NSAIDs can be described as a comprehensive set of non-opioid analgesic drugs. And while their chemical structures differ, they have a few effects in common. These comprise:
• ameliorating pain
• reducing fever and high temperature
• decreasing inflammation [1].

NSAIDs work by slowing the formation of prostaglandins (a group of lipids made at sites of tissue damage or infection that are involved in dealing with injury & illness). These prostaglandins “play an important role in the body’s inflammatory response. The body, therefore, produces more of these substances when an injury occurs. Reducing the number of prostaglandins at the site of damaged tissue lowers inflammation” [1]

NSAIDs also block the enzyme COX (cyclooxygenase), which supports the reactions which generate prostaglandins. To that end, by blocking COX, NSAIDs impede the function of platelets (a certain type of cell which has a vital role in blood clotting. As a consequence, NSAIDs have anti-clotting properties. Conversely, with regard to aspirin, this blood clotting mechanism may help prevent the blocked arteries which can result in a stroke or heart attack [1].

What Conditions Do Pain Specialists Treat With NSAIDs?

Pain doctors typically prescribe NSAIDs to ameliorate three symptoms which come about in a spectrum of conditions:

• Pain
• Inflammation
• High temperature or fever [1].

Pain Specialists also prescribe NSAIDs to relieve short-term and minor pain and inflammation. Some of these conditions include:

• Joint or muscle issues
• Bone or joint strains, sprains and injuries
• Backache
• Arthritis
• Period pains
• Headaches
• Flu or colds
• Toothache [1]


[1]. MacGill, M. (2021). “Everything you need to know about NSAIDs.” Medical News Today.