Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are a group of medicines often used for relief of pain and inflammation. These drugs include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. They are widely available in an over-the-counter form. The mechanism by which these drugs work in the body is not clearly understood. NSAIDs have many effects on the body, including pain relief, anti-inflammation, fever reduction, and reducing the blood's ability to clot. Most NSAIDs are taken orally in tablet form. Some may also be taken by injection in a vein (intravenously).


Many athletes use NSAIDs for their anti-inflammatory and pain reducing (analgesic) properties. Athletic participation frequently causes aches, pains, and inflammation, which these drugs can treat. There is also some evidence that they speed recovery after injury.


  • Nausea.

  • Stomach pain.

  • Bleeding from the stomach and intestines.

  • Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis).

  • Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis).

  • Headache.

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).

  • Rash, with sun exposure (photosensitivity).

  • Increase in fluid volume (fluid retention).

  • Ulcers of the stomach and small intestine.

  • Kidney failure.

  • Liver failure.

  • Poor control of asthma.

  • Itching (urticaria).

  • Increase in nasal polyps (swelling).

  • Depression.

  • Loss of red blood cells (anemia).

  • Loose stools (diarrhea).


NSAIDs exist in both short-acting and long-acting forms. Many users of NSAIDs experience pain relief with initial doses, that becomes less effective with continual use. Most caregivers believe NSAIDs should be used for 2 to 3 weeks, before they are considered ineffective. Most NSAIDs are excreted from the body through the kidneys. The use of NSAIDs under conditions where dehydration can occur increases the risk of side effects to the kidneys and the liver. This is especially common in older athletes and in athletes not acclimated to the heat. All these drugs are well absorbed when taken by mouth. The price of these drugs is variable.


It is recommend that NSAIDs be used after athletic participation to help recovery, or in the early stages of injury treatment. This is the time when athletes are trying to control pain and inflammation. Many athletes choose to take NSAIDs prophylactically (preventative, before injury). However, this may be associated with an increased risk of side effects. If you experience any side effects, including a decrease in performance while taking NSAIDs, discontinue use and consult your caregiver. If you choose to use NSAIDs regularly. for longer than 3 to 6 months, you should obtain screening blood tests for the liver, kidney, and bone marrow. Ongoing use may also increase your risk of a stomach ulcer.