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  • Writer's pictureRetrain Health

Anti-inflammatories - FAQs about NSAIDs

If you have ever had an ache or pain before, and taken medication for it, it is likely that you have had an NSAID.

An NSAID is a 'non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug' that can help with reducing the swelling, redness, pain or fever, commonly associated with inflammation.

So why might you take an anti-inflammatory?

Research indicates that a certain amount of inflammation is required to stimulate the healing process within the body.

So why do we need anti-inflammatories?

Anti-inflammatories are used to 'reign in' an inflammation response, to allow for an individual to continue to function, while the healing continues.

Common indications to take an anti-inflammatory imclude:

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Arthritis

  • Period pain

  • Back pain

How do NSAIDs work?

NSAIDs work by blocking the enzyme, cyclooxygenase (aka COX), which produce 'prostaglandins'.

Prostaglandins are key chemicals in the body, which are involved in many vital functions:

  • Promote inflammation, resulting in swelling, pain, fever and tissue healing

  • Protect the stomach lining from the damaging effects of stomach acids

  • Support the blood clotting function of platelets.

There are two COX enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. Both enzymes produce prostaglandins which lead to inflammation, pain and fever, however, only COX-1 produces the prostaglandins that support the stomach lining and platelet activity within the blood.

Due to this inhibition COX enzymes, extended use of NSAIDs can cause issues with your stomach lining (e.g. stomach ulcers) and thin your blood (e.g. poor clotting and wound healing).

Side Effects of NSAIDs

As with any medication, NSAIDs may cause you to have some side effects:

  • Common side effects include - nausea, heart burn, indigestion.

  • Less common, more serious side effects include - stomach bleeding (due to stomach ulcer), kidney problems, induce asthma.

NB: Anti-inflammatory medication should not be used with women who are trying to convieve, or are pregnant.

Please speak to your Doctor and/or Pharmacists prior to taking anti-inflammatories to ensure the type is the best for you and your particular concern.

How to get the most out of NSAID’s?

NSAID’s work best when taken regularly, as prescribed on the box, or as your doctor or pharmacists have advised. Taking the medication regularly helps reduce the amount of prostaglandins within the body, resulting in a greater overall reduction of inflammation and pain producing enzymes.

Where indicated, taking an NSAID with food may influence the effectiveness or risk of the NSAIDs, so ensure to follow the instructions dilligently.

Access to NSAIDs

In Australia, we have access to some NSAIDs over the counter (ibuprofen, aspirin, diclofenac), while stronger NSAIDs require a prescription from your doctor (celebrex, naproxen).

What NSAIDs have to do with osteopathy?

When visiting your osteopath, they may suggest the use of NSAIDs, for a short period time, to help with managing your presenting complaint.

For example, if you are presenting with an acute injury or complaint, there is likely to be some inflammation occurring. Taking anti-inflammatories, in combination with treatment, can help reduce your inflammation and pain levels, and get you back to the activities you love, quicker.


Retrain Health is based in the Northern Rivers, NSW. From our Byron Bay and Ballina clinics, our team provides a range of quality healthcare services and products.

Retrain Health offers osteopathy, remedial massage and strength and conditioning sessions, with qualified practitioners.

If you are interested in finding out more information or would like to book an appointment, please contact the clinic by phone (02) 6680 7447, send us an email or click here to book an appointment online.

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