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Aleve and Naproxen

Taking Aleve or Naproxen for Back Pain Neck Pain or Spinal Arthritis


Updated June 30, 2014

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Intro to Aleve (naproxen)
Aleve (naproxen) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication used for pain relief and fever reduction. It can be purchased over the counter. Naproxen, its active ingredient, can also be obtained via prescription. Research shows that naproxen is effective in reducing the pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness experienced by people with both inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis. This includes osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. People with back pain can also use Aleve for muscle aches, arthritis and other ails.

How Aleve Works
NSAIDs work largely by inhibiting the formation of body chemicals known as prostaglandins. In doing so, it reduces inflammation and pain.

Forms of Aleve
Over-the-counter Aleve comes as a regular tablet and with gelatin coating. Prescription naproxen comes as a regular tablet, an enteric coated medication, extended release tablet, and a liquid.

As with any drug, your doctor is the best person to help you determine how much to take and how often. If she is not available to speak with you, follow the instructions on the package very carefully, and/or ask your pharmacist. Don't take it more or less than the amount recommended, nor more frequently. Because Aleve has known side effects which can be very serious in nature, the rule of thumb is to take as little as you can for only the shortest time period necessary. If you have stomach, heart or kidney problems, your doctor may suggest you take less than the normal dosage, to protect yourself from problems associated with taking the drug.

Aleve is taken by mouth, with a full glass of water, approximately every 8-12 hours, while symptoms last. Within the first hour you could take 2 tablets, if you need. Aleve tablets contain 220 mg of naproxen. For pain and fever relief, you should not take more than 440 mg, or 2 tablets, within a 12-hour period. Also, you should not take more than 660 mg, or 3 tablets, within a 24 hour (1 day) period. For arthritis pain, the maximum is one gram diving twice per day, which can be increased to 1.5 grams for limited periods of time. For other uses, discuss dosing with your doctor.

If you take Aleve with food, you may be able to minimize stomach discomfort associated with taking this drug.

In all but the extended release tablets, prescription naproxen is usually taken twice a day in cases of arthritis, and every 6-8 hours as needed for other types of pain. Do not crush or chew enteric-coated naproxen, as that will cancel its stomach protective benefits. If your doctor has prescribed long-term use of naproxen, be sure to take it at the same time each day.

Missed Doses
If you miss a dose, take one as soon as you remember. An exception would be when it is almost time for the next dose. In that case, just wait until it is time to take it again. Stay as close to your regular dosing schedule and never double dose this medication.

Unintended Overdose or Drug Interactions
Taking other medications, including other pain drugs or cold and allergy drugs, increases your risk of overdosing by accident. This is because many over-the-counter medicines also contain NSAIDs. So read the label on the box. If you take more than one medication, check the box or insert of each one of them to be sure that you are getting naproxen and any other NSAID only once.

If you think you may have overdosed, call 911 or your local poison control center.

When Not to Take Aleve
Having certain health problems means you might not be able to take Aleve, or you may need to consult with your doctor to get the dose adjusted.

If you have a history of heart problems, blood clots, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney problems, blood clots or stomach ulcers, you should know that the class of drugs into which Aleve is categorized, known as NSAIDs, has been found to increase the risk of cardiovascular related incidents. Ask your doctor if Aleve or naproxen is right for you, and at which dosage. If it is not a good choice given your condition, perhaps your doctor can suggest a suitable substitute for pain management. The longer you take Aleve, the greater will be your risk for cardiovascular events. In particular, Aleve may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure, especially with long-term use.

Taking Aleve or any naproxen product just before or after a heart bypass operation is not recommended.

Aleve and other NSAIDs also increase the risk of ulcers (holes in the stomach), bleeding in the stomach and related GI problems. These known side effects can have very serious consequences, including death. They can occur at any time when taking Aleve, and may show up without previous warning. These and other risks for side effects are amplified in older adults who take Aleve. Again, the wisest thing to do if you already have stomach problems is to speak with your doctor before taking Aleve.

Don’t drink and take Aleve. Taking alcohol increases the risk for stomach bleeding.

Aleve and other naproxen medications cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight, so if you take it, stay away from the sun, tanning beds or sunlamps. This will help protect you from sunburn.

Other conditions that may increase your risk for the dangerous side effects of Aleve include liver or kidney disease, asthma, polyps in the nose, bleeding and clotting disorders and being a smoker. If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use Aleve, or you may need your dose adjusted. Speak with your physician or pharmacist to be sure.

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