Similar to ibuprofen, naproxen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. Rather than affecting the brain’s perception of pain as with opioid drugs, NSAIDs like naproxen relieve pain caused by skin and muscle inflammation. They help the body to stop producing the chemicals causing inflammatory pain, allowing the body to relax and become more flexible.
Conditions Treated by Naproxen
Naproxen is an over-the-counter treatment for several forms of inflammatory pain such as back pain, neck pain and leg pain. It helps to treat many different pain-related conditions, including:
- Osteoarthritis – Naproxen helps reduce the pain that occurs as a result of bone grinding in the absence of strong cartilage.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – Naproxen helps to reduce the inflammation in the joints that causes much of the pain and loss of flexibility caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
- Ankylosing spondylitis – When cartilage hardens the bone and inflames the joints in the spine, naproxen helps to reduce the inflammatory effect on the surrounding tissue.
Naproxen is also commonly used to treat pain caused by a variety of other sources, including menstrual cramps, kidney stones, toothaches, muscle aches and headaches. While the over-the-counter versions of naproxen treat mild to moderate pain, prescription-strength naproxen is used for the most serious pain.
There are few side effects for naproxen, and the ones that do exist are relatively mild. They include:
- Stomach pain
- Impaired hearing and vision
- Swollen hands and feet if allergic
- Difficulty urinating
- Difficulty swallowing
Additionally, naproxen may increase the risk of heart disease in some patients. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, you should not take over-the-counter naproxen or other NSAIDs unless advised by a doctor. Additionally, you should not drink alcohol or smoke while taking naproxen for pain.
Standard dosage for over-the-counter naproxen is 250-500 mg per day, but you may take up to 1500 mg daily. Naproxen is typically taken in tablet or pill form, and doses should not exceed twice a day. Tablets are generally either 250 or 500 mg each, and prescription-strength naproxen may be twice of this. Talk with your doctor to determine the right dosage amount for you.
Over-the-counter naproxen does not contain enough of the medication for serious risk of an overdose. However, if you take far too many pills or if you overdose on prescription naproxen, the following symptoms may occur:
- Stomach ulcers or bleeding
- Extreme fatigue
Contact a medical professional if you experience these or other overdose symptoms after taking too much naproxen.
How to Decide if Naproxen is Right for You
Naproxen is one of the most commonly-administered over-the-counter pain medications, and many homes have it in medicine cabinets. Naproxen is generally safe for everyone to use for mild to moderate pain, but some people react adversely to high doses of NSAIDs. If you plan to go on a serious naproxen regimen, talk to a doctor to see if the medication is right for you.