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The Best Over-the-Counter Anti-Inflammatory Medications

author image Jacques Courseault
As a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician I have extensive experience in musculoskeletal/neurological medicine that will benefit the network.
The Best Over-the-Counter Anti-Inflammatory Medications
The Best Over-the-Counter Anti-Inflammatory Medications Photo Credit drugs image by Horticulture from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Anti-inflammatory medications are commonly taken to treat conditions caused by inflammation such as arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, tendonitis, bursitis, gout, fever or menstrual cramps. These medications reduce chemical signals that cause pain and inflammation in the body, specifically at the injured area. Drug stores provide a variety of anti-inflammatory medications that a patient can choose from. To make the best choice, he must understand the risks and benefits of taking each one.


Naproxen, or Aleve, is a common over-the-counter (OTC) medication that a patient can choose to treat her particular condition. Naproxen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that can reduce inflammation that a particular condition causes. In particular, naproxen, among other steroids, is recommended for chronic low back pain, states the Cochrane Review. Although effective in treating inflammatory conditions, naproxen may cause serious side effects. This medication can increase the risk of stomach bleeding or increase the risk of life-threatening heart or circulation problems. These side effects typically occur in patients with existing problems or in those that chronically use naproxen. A patient should suspect stomach bleeding if she notices bloody vomit, bloody stools, stomach pain or nausea. Symptoms of heart or circulation problems include chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, slurred speed or vision problems.


Ibuprofen, or Advil, is a common medication used to treat inflammation. In July 2008, the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported that ibuprofen was associated with better pain scale scores in 30 percent more patients than acetaminophen. Patients taking ibuprofen stated that pain interfered less with daily activities than those receiving acetaminophen. Ibuprofen is an NSAID that shares the same side effects as naproxen and other NSAIDs. Thus, a patient should seek immediate medical treatment is he experiences serious side effects.


Aspirin is also considered one of the best OTC medications that a patient can take for pain relief. Specifically, the Journal of Neurology reports that aspirin is particularly effective in treating migraine headaches. In this study, aspirin was as effective as typical migraine medications and offered fewer side effects. Although effective for migraines, aspirin can also be used to treat other inflammatory conditions that may cause pain. Of note, aspirin inhibits platelets, which can result in long-term blood-thinning. Thus, a patient with a cut, bruise or other injury from trauma should seek emergency medical treatment to make sure that bleeding is adequately controlled.

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