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Although NSAIDs are usually taken orally, they can be administered intravenously, transdermally, and even rectally in the form of a suppository to relieve pain.
When relief from pain and inflammation is the need of the hour, we often think of popping an NSAID that is known to provide quick relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, better known as NSAIDs, seem to be the first choice for faster pain relief. Be it a bothersome back pain, an annoying headache, a debilitating arthritic pain, or an impairing gout pain, taking an NSAID may come to your rescue and ease the discomfort. NSAIDs are also used to alleviate pain associated with sports injuries, neck stiffness, menstrual cramps, and even toothaches.
NSAIDs are classified into two main types: non-selective and selective. The classification is based on how they work to relieve pain.
Types of NSAIDs
NSAIDs belonging to the non-selective class suppress the activity of cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme that exists in the body in two different variants – COX-1 and COX-2. It is observed that COX-1 supports in maintaining the mucus lining of the stomach that safeguards it from digestive enzymes. On the other hand, COX-2 triggers an inflammatory response, which causes pain and swelling. Non-selective NSAIDs nullify the activity of both the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. Although the inhibiting action of the COX-2 enzyme helps relieve pain, curbing the activity of COX-1 damages the lining of the stomach. No wonder, people frequently taking non-selective NSAIDs are susceptible to stomach ulcers, heartburn, and stomach pain. Non-selective NSAIDs tend to cause stomach irritation, which is a cause for concern.
NSAIDs classified as non-selective, meaning they negate the actions of both COX-1 and COX-2, are:
► Aspirin (Bufferin, Bayer)
► Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
► Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox)
► Diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren)
► Ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis)
► Piroxicam (Feldene, Flexicam)
► Indomethacin (Indocin)
Also referred to as COX-2 inhibitors, selective NSAIDs target the COX-2 enzyme that causes pain and swelling. However, they do not interfere with the activity of the COX-1 enzyme that keeps the mucus lining of the stomach healthy and intact. Thus, taking selective NSAIDs does not affect the stomach lining, but at the same time, they provide pain relief.
Considering the wide range of bothersome side effects associated with non-selective NSAIDs, the development of COX-2 inhibitors has proved to be a welcome change, with minimal side effects, if any. Selective NSAIDs that block the actions of the COX-2 enzyme, but at the same time, allow the COX-1 enzyme to carry out its function, are:
► Celecoxib (Celebrex)
► Meloxicam (Mobic)
NSAIDs that are readily available over the counter and do not require a doctor's prescription are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Although they help manage chronic pain, long-term use of these drugs should be avoided due to their bothersome side effects. On the other hand, prescription NSAIDs are stronger than OTC drugs. In either case, increasing the dosage raises the risk of side effects.
Topical NSAIDs are often used to relieve musculoskeletal pain resulting from sports-related injuries. People affected with knee osteoarthritis may find relief from topical application of NSAIDs. Applying it directly to the painful joint is more effective than taking it in an oral form.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.