Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen are widely used to treat pain and don’t require a prescription. But recent studies suggest that when taken regularly, these medicines can have serious side effects. They’ve been linked to kidney, bone, hearing and cardiovascular problems—including, most recently, an increased risk of heart attack.
For healthy people with occasional aches, there’s nothing wrong with taking an Advil or an Aleve to relieve discomfort, says Dr. Jyotsna Nagda, a pain specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But “long-term use of anti-inflammatories is not a good idea,” she says, especially when alternatives are available.
Plus, says Alban Latremoliere, a pain physiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, NSAIDs don’t always work well—which could prompt people to take higher and higher doses when they should be turning to other treatments. “Instead of looking for a pill that works for every type of pain, we need to be thinking about combination approaches that treat the underlying problems,” he says.