Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on March 13, 2023
Pain and inflammation are two common health issues that affect millions of people worldwide. To combat these problems, many people turn to over-the-counter pain medications such as Aleve. But is Aleve an NSAID, and how does it work?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Aleve, its classification as an NSAID, and its potential benefits and risks for reducing inflammation and swelling. We’ll also take a look at its most frequent use cases, its side effects, and safety precautions while taking it.
What is an NSAID?
NSAID stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which is a type of medication commonly used to treat pain, fever, and inflammation.
NSAIDs work by inhibiting the activity of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which is responsible for producing prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that cause inflammation, pain, and fever. By blocking COX enzymes, NSAIDs inhibit prostaglandin creation which can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Is Aleve an NSAID?
Yes, Aleve is an NSAID. The active ingredient in Aleve is naproxen sodium, which belongs to the class of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
What is the generic name for Aleve? Naproxen
How Does Aleve Work?
We know that the production of prostaglandins is one of the top causes of inflammation in the body. And so, Aleve works similarly to other NSAIDs by blocking both Cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzymes.
- COX-1 is involved in producing prostaglandins that protect the stomach lining, promote blood clotting and support normal kidney function.
- COX-2 produces prostaglandins in response to injury or inflammation, which causes pain, fever, and swelling.
While Aleve blocks both enzymes effectively, it has a higher affinity for COX-1. As a result, COX-1 inhibition is more likely to lead to gastrointestinal side effects which we’ll discuss later in the article.
Common Uses for Aleve
Aleve, and other brands of naproxen, are commonly used for a variety of uncomfortable conditions. The most widespread uses for Aleve include:
- Pain relief: Aleve is used to relieve mild to moderate pain associated with conditions such as headaches, migraines, and toothaches.
- Fever reduction: Aleve can be used to lower fever caused by a variety of ailments such as infections, colds, or flu.
- Inflammation reduction: Aleve can be used to reduce inflammation associated with conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis, and bursitis.
- Dysmenorrhea: Aleve can be used to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with dysmenorrhea, a condition characterized by painful menstrual cramps.
Aleve Side Effects
Like any medication, there is also potential for adverse reactions, even if taking Aleve as directed. The side effects of Aleve may include:
- Stomach upset or pain: Aleve can irritate the stomach lining, leading to stomach pain, nausea, and heartburn due to COX-1 inhibition.
- Headaches: Aleve can cause headaches, particularly when used for an extended period.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness: Aleve can cause dizziness or lightheadedness, which is more likely to occur when standing up quickly.
- Increased risk of bleeding: Aleve can increase the risk of bleeding. This risk is more pronounced when taken with blood-thinning medications.
- High blood pressure: Aleve can cause high blood pressure, particularly in people with pre-existing hypertension.
- Kidney problems: Aleve can cause kidney problems, especially in people with pre-existing kidney disease.
- Liver problems: Aleve can cause liver problems, which is a more frequent occurrence in people who drink alcohol regularly or have pre-existing liver disease.
These side effects are not exhaustive, and people may experience other side effects not listed here. If you experience any adverse effects while taking Aleve, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
Safety Precautions for Aleve
When taking Aleve (naproxen), it is important to follow these safety precautions to minimize potential risks:
- Follow the recommended dosage: Do not take more than the recommended dose on the label or as instructed by your doctor.
- Take with food or milk: Taking Aleve with food or milk can help reduce the risk of stomach upset.
- Avoid alcohol: Drinking alcohol while taking Aleve can increase the risk of stomach bleeding and liver damage.
- Consult with a doctor: If you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications, talk to your doctor before taking Aleve.
- Watch for side effects: Be aware of the potential side effects of Aleve and contact your doctor if you experience any symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, or rash.
- Do not take during pregnancy: Aleve should not be taken during the third trimester of pregnancy as it may cause harm to the unborn baby.
- Store safely: Keep Aleve out of reach of children and store it in a cool, dry place.
Aleve vs Ibuprofen
Naproxen and ibuprofen are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, naproxen and ibuprofen block COX enzymes to different degrees—naproxen more strongly inhibits COX-1 while ibuprofen more strongly inhibits COX-2.
COX-1 inhibition can lead to an increased risk of gastrointestinal side effects, while COX-2 inhibition can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular side effects. Additionally, naproxen has a longer half-life than ibuprofen, meaning it stays in the body longer and may be taken less frequently.
OTC Alternatives to Aleve
There are plenty of other over-the-counter alternatives for pain relief. You can try acetaminophen, another brand of naproxen, or a different type of OTC anti-inflammatory altogether.
It’s important to note that acetaminophen is not an NSAID. Therefore, it is unable to reduce swelling and inflammation in the same way naproxen does—it merely blocks pain signals in the brain. But if pain relief is all you need, here are some well-known acetaminophen options you can try:
- Excedrin (also contains Aspirin)
Three different types of NSAIDs are commonly used. We already discussed two of them today: naproxen and ibuprofen. The third which can be beneficial for some is aspirin. Here are the top brands for each:
- Ibuprofen: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin
- Aspirin: Bayer, Bufferin, Excedrin, Ecotrin, Anacin
- Naproxen: Naprosyn, Anaprox, Mediproxen
How to Lower Inflammation Naturally
If you’d rather get natural pain relief and skip anti-inflammatory meds entirely, there are plenty of safe natural remedies for inflammation you can try. These strategies are time-tested and proven to work, with a much lower risk of side effects.
- Eat fewer inflammatory foods: This includes avoiding processed foods, refined sugars, and trans fats, which are all foods that cause inflammation.
- Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet: An anti-inflammatory diet includes plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as leafy greens, fatty fish, berries, and nuts.
- Make lifestyle modifications: This includes reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Take dietary supplements: Certain herbs and spices such as black pepper, ginger, and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties and can be taken as a supplement to reduce inflammation in the body.
There are hundreds of supplements for inflammation out there, but it can be tough to filter through the noise. So we’ve provided the three most well-researched supplements below to get started with.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin works by inhibiting various molecules that play a role in inflammation, while also combating oxidative stress.
- Learn More: 10 Best Turmeric Curcumin Supplements for 2023
Apple cider vinegar can lower inflammation in the body due to its high concentration of acetic acid, which can inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes. The antioxidants in apple cider vinegar may also help to reduce oxidative stress.
- Learn More: 10 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies for 2023
Elderberry contains various plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Elderberry can also help boost the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, which can further reduce inflammation.
- Learn More: 10 Best Sambucus Elderberry Gummies for 2023
Aleve and NSAIDs: Final Thoughts
Is Aleve an anti-inflammatory? The answer is yes. Aleve is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is commonly used to reduce inflammation, pain, and fever. Its active ingredient, naproxen, works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are responsible for inflammation and pain.
Although Aleve can be effective in relieving these symptoms, it is important to use it carefully and under the guidance of a healthcare provider to minimize the risk of potential side effects. Overall, Aleve is a valuable tool in managing pain and inflammation, but like any medication, it should be used responsibly and with caution.