Potential Risks and Complications of NSAIDS

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are a type of anti-inflammatory medication that, at high doses, is effective at reducing muscle inflammation and alleviating pain caused by inflammation. This type of medication is widely available and may be purchased over the counter or obtained via prescription, depending on the dosage. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, are also commonly prescribed to relieve arthritic pain, neck or back pain and fever. However, there are a number of potential risks and complications of NSAIDs that need to be understood before beginning treatment.

When NSAIDs should be avoided

NSAIDs should be taken only at the direction of a physician if you have significant risk factors for heart disease. Recent studies suggest that people with significant cardiovascular disease risk factors and who take ibuprofen are at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke than those who do not regularly take NSAIDs. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include high cholesterol/triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of premature (younger than 60) cardiovascular disease, poor physical conditioning, advanced age and others. Persons with kidney disease should also not take NSAIDs without specific instruction from their physician to do so.

NSAIDs have also been linked to gastrointestinal problems and bleeding ulcers in the stomach. These drugs reduce inflammation by targeting the actions of two cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX-1 and COX-2) in the body. The COX-1 enzyme is involved in the production of a prostaglandin that regulates production of mucous protecting the stomach lining. Inhibiting this enzyme can lead to upset stomach symptoms, GI tract infections and bleeding peptic ulcers. Additionally, NSAIDs interfere with production of prostaglandins that regulate kidney blood flow in a way that may be harmful to persons with kidney disease.

Side effects

As with most medications, NSAIDs have other potential side effects, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heart burn and indigestion
  • Headache
  • And more

NSAIDs can be an excellent way to treat inflammation and pain associated with arthritis of the spine, disc inflammation/ pain and other degenerative spine conditions. However, it is extremely important that patients consult their physician before beginning treatment to ensure safe and proper use of NSAIDs.