NSAIDs have been around for centuries and are some of the oldest and most widely used medications. In fact, ancient Greeks chewed on the bark of willow trees to treat pain and fever. In 1829, the active ingredient in the willow tree bark was discovered, thus marking the beginning of the NSAID class of drugs. This category of pain relievers, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, introduced its first official medication when Bayer trademarked the name “Aspirin” in 1899.

Some NSAIDs are over-the-counter drugs, and therefore it doesn’t need a prescription. Other NSAIDs must be prescribed by a doctor. These medications are used to lower fevers as well as treat a variety of pains such as arthritis, muscle aches and also migraine attacks.

NSAIDs are used very often. Each day, more than 30 million people take over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs. More than 30 billion over-the-counter NSAID tablets are sold yearly.

NSAIDs and Migraines

NSAIDs are most often used for short-term head pain caused by migraine diease, but not typically for long-term prevention. They appear to be particularly useful for menstrual migraines and migraines caused by exercise or exertion.

How NSAIDs work

NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory drugs and therefore reduce swelling by blocking enzymes and proteins the body makes.

Different forms /formulations of NSAIDs

Migraine sufferers sometimes need the option of having medications in different formulations because of the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, which can make it difficult to swallow and digest medications.

NSAIDs come in the following forms:

  • Tablet
  • Liquid
  • Chewable
  • Capsule

Side effects of NSAIDs

The most common side effects of NSAIDs are upset stomach, ulcers, heartburn and rash. It is recommended that NSAIDs be taken with food to reduce the risk of the digestive side effects.

If taken too frequently or for long periods of time NSAIDs can also lead to medication overuse, or rebound, headaches.

Older people or those with serious health problems may have other side effects, which are seen less often, such as confusion, swelling of the face, feet, lower legs or a decrease in urine.


Who should not take NSAIDs

Don’t suddenly stop taking NSAIDs if you take them regularly.

Different NSAID medications for migraine disease and other headaches

Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
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