What is Naproxen Used For? Uses, Side Effects, and Dosages


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Have you been prescribed naproxen? If you’re looking for information on what naproxen is and how to take it safely, you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we take a look at what naproxen is used for and the guidelines you should follow in order to take it safely. We’ll see who should and shouldn’t take naproxen, and explore why it’s important to take it only as directed.

The article also covers the side effects of naproxen, including common issues like headaches, stomach pain, and lethargy, as well as more serious ones such as stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, and allergic reactions. We’ll also take a look at some of the long-term side effects you could incur if you take naproxen over a longer period of time. 

In the latter part of the article, we answer common drug combination questions, including whether or not it is safe to mix naproxen with alcohol.

What Is Naproxen Used For?

Naproxen, pronounced nuh-prok-sin, is an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat a range of health issues including osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, tendonitis, and period pain. Because of its non-steroidal anti-inflammatory nature, it is also used to treat a range of muscle and bone disorders, including sprains and back pain. 

How Should I Take Naproxen?

You should take naproxen only as advised by your GP or healthcare provider. This will typically include adhering to the following guidelines: 

  • Only take naproxen with food or shortly after eating
  • Use the lowest dose possible for the shortest duration 

If you are getting your naproxen on prescription, it may come as three tablets (standard, effervescent and gastro-resistant tablets) or as a liquid. You can take them as follows:

  • Standard: Swallow with water shortly after or with food.
  • Effervescent tablets: Dissolve in a glass of water and consume once the tablets have broken down. Consume with, or soon after, food. 
  • Gastro-resistant tablets: Avoid chewing these, instead swallowing them with a glass of water either with food or shortly after. This is because this version is covered in a coating to avoid it being eroded by your stomach acid, instead, it is released in your intestine. 
  • Liquid: Measure out the correct amount using the plastic syringe that comes with this version. Again, take with, or shortly after, food.

Who Can Take Naproxen?

Most people over the age of 18 are able to take naproxen and anyone over the age of 15 can buy it in a pharmacy for period pain. 

In certain situations, it is also prescribed to younger people. This includes:

  • Period pain for children younger than 15
  • Health conditions impacting the joints of children from the age of 2
  • Muscle or bone disorders in babies from 1 month 

Who Can’t Take Naproxen?

Naproxen isn’t an appropriate medication for all people and it is advised to discuss your medical and personal history with your GP or healthcare provider to decide whether or not this medication is right for you.

It is also advised to avoid naproxen if you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding. You should avoid naproxen if you have: 

  • A history of allergic reactions to other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen  
  • Kidney failure 
  • Liver failure 
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach ulcers 
  • A blood-clotting disorder 
  • Conditions including lupus, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease 

Why You Need to Take Naproxen as Directed

Naproxen is designed to be taken as a short-term treatment, if you don’t take it exactly as directed it comes with certain risks. 

It’s important that you don’t stop taking it without consulting your healthcare practitioner first, as you’re likely to get more inflammation and consequently experience more pain. 

You should also avoid missing doses or not sticking to the prescribed schedule. This is because the naproxen will not work as well, or may not work at all. 

Avoid taking multiple doses at the same time, this can lead to dangerous side effects. 

It’s also vital that you avoid taking too much, as this can lead to a dangerous build-up in your body and cause an overdose. If you think you have taken too much naproxen, it’s important that you call 999 or get yourself to A&E as quickly as possible. 

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Side Effects of Naproxen

Like all medications, naproxen comes with the risk of side effects. For this reason, it’s important that while you’re taking it – and until you know it doesn’t affect your ability to function as normal – you do not operate machinery, drive or engage in any other activities which require mental alertness. 

Common Side Effects

Some of the most common side effects you may experience when taking naproxen include: 

  • Confusion 
  • Headaches 
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhoea
  • Gas 
  • Dizziness 
  • Ringing in the ears 
  • Vision changes
  • Feeling sleepy or tired 

These side effects should settle down after a few days or weeks. If they continue for you, it’s important to bring it up with your doctor or healthcare professional so they can alter your dose or look at alternative treatment options for you. 

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, seek urgent help. Serious side effects associated with taking naproxen include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Issues breathing 
  • Weakness in one area or side of your body 
  • Difficulty speaking 
  • Throat or facial swelling 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Frequent sore throat, nosebleed, or infection 
  • Irregular or slow heartbeat 

Naproxen – especially if taken in large doses or over a long period of time –  can also cause bleeding and ulcers in your stomach and intestines, which may cause symptoms such as:

  • Stomach pain
  • Blood in your vomit, pee, or stool 
  • Black or sticky stool 
  • Asthma attacks in asthmatics 
  • Fatigue, lethargy, and weakness
  • Yellowing of skin or whites of your eyes 
  • Weight gain 
  • Swelling of your arms and legs 
  • Skin rash or blisters 
  • Fever 

Serious Allergic Reaction

You could experience anaphylaxis to naproxen. If you experience any of the below, it’s critical that you call 999 or go to A&E immediately:

  • Red, blistered, swollen, or itchy skin 
  • Tight chest or throat 
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing or talking 
  • Swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat 

Long-Term Side Effects

If you take naproxen for a long time, it can cause an ulcer in your stomach or gut. This is why you should avoid this medication if you have a history of stomach ulcers in the past, or are at risk of developing one. If this is you, your GP or healthcare provider should advise you on other medication which you can take alongside naproxen to protect your stomach. 

Worried you have developed a stomach ulcer from naproxen? The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer caused by naproxen is feeling a burning sensation at the centre of your stomach. That said, it is not always immediately obvious and you may experience milder symptoms like feeling nauseous, heartburn or indigestion. If you have any concerns, speak to your healthcare provider. 

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Is Naproxen a Strong Painkiller?

Naproxen is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug used to alleviate inflammation and the pain that often accompanies it. It is widely considered a strong painkiller and is part of the category of medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

How Does Naproxen Work?

Naproxen belongs to a class of medicines known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It works by reducing inflammation and pain, and it can also bring down a high temperature. 

NSAIDs work by stopping the effect of cyclo-oxygenase enzymes. These enzymes help make prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that is often responsible for inflammation. So it follows that reducing the amount of prostaglandin will in turn lower the inflammation and pain. 

There are two of these enzymes, COX-1, and COX-2. It is the latter that is largely involved in producing the prostaglandins responsible for pain and inflammation. Interestingly, some NSAIDs are selective, meaning they only block the COX-2 enzyme, but most are general and that includes naproxen. 

What Does Naproxen Work Best For?

Because of its ability to lower inflammation and pain, it is usually used in conditions related to high levels of inflammation. These can include: 

  • Menstrual cramps
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Toothache
  • Muscle pain
  • Head pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Joint damage
  • Joint inflammatory disease (in children and adolescents) 
  • Musculoskeletal injury

Can Naproxen Interact With Other Medicines?

Like most meditations, naproxen can interact with other medications and change the way the drug works. This means it could stop working as well, or it could cause harm.

To avoid this, it’s important your doctor or healthcare provider manages all of your medications carefully. Be sure to let them know if you are taking any other vitamins, supplements, or herbs that they might not know about. 

Some of the common known interactions are with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which taken with naproxen increases your risk of stomach and intestinal bleeding. 

Taking naproxen with blood pressure drugs may stop the medication from controlling your blood pressure as well. If you’re older, it may also cause kidney damage. 

If you take heartburn drugs you may find that naproxen doesn’t work as well, or takes longer to kick in. 

Are Naproxen and Tramadol the Same Thing?

No, tramadol and naproxen are not the same things. 

Tramadol, which you might have heard of by the brand names Maxitram, Marol, Zydol, Zamadol, Tramulief, or Tramquel, is a strong painkiller. Unlike naproxen, which is an NSAID, tramadol belongs to the class of drugs known as opiates, or narcotics. These are typically used to treat moderate to severe pain, like that experienced after an operation or injury. 

Tramadol is only available on prescription, unlike naproxen which can be bought in low doses over the counter. As it is a strong painkiller and an opiate, tramadol has the potential for addiction. The risk of this increases with prolonged use. 

Can I Take Tramadol With Naproxen?

There is no known drug interaction between tramadol and naproxen. Please contact your GP or healthcare provider for further information on mixing tramadol with naproxen, as caution should always be taken when mixing drugs. 

What Is Stronger Tramadol or Naproxen?

It is difficult to draw a direct comparison between naproxen and tramadol, as they come from two different classes of drugs and each has its place in certain situations. 

Both opioids and NSAIDs are used for pain reduction. Some research has found that while both types of medication can have a significant impact on pain relief, people experience more adverse effects when using opioids. 

This conclusion has been reflected in further research, which reflects the recommendations from the World Health Organization that NSAIDs be used before opioids.

Can I Take Naproxen With Diazepam (Valium)?

There is no known drug interaction between diazepam (sometimes referred to as valium) and naproxen. As before, please contact your GP or healthcare provider for further information on mixing diazepam with naproxen, as caution should always be taken when mixing drugs. 

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Can I Take Naproxen With Alcohol?

The NHS states you can drink while taking naproxen, but you might want to avoid it nonetheless. One of the most dangerous issues caused by mixing NSAIDs like naproxen with alcohol is an increased risk of bleeding. It hasn’t been established why this happens, but it’s a phenomenon that has been picked up in research

Another side effect of mixing naproxen with alcohol is gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Both alcohol and naproxen can cause this issue when used alone, so when used together the risk of developing it increases. 

You may be able to tell if you develop gastritis from mixing alcohol and naproxen, it usually makes you feel sick or gives you a painful stomach, though you might have no symptoms. Unfortunately, gastritis can go on to cause other problems in your body including: 

  • Stomach and intestine ulcers 
  • Permanent damage to the stomach lining 
  • Low blood iron 
  • Vitamin b12 deficiency 
  • Stomach growths 

The best way to avoid all of these side effects is to avoid mixing alcohol with naproxen. 

How Long After Naproxen Can I Drink Alcohol?

Naproxen has a half-life of 12 – 17 hours. This means it takes around 12 to 17 hours to remove half of the active substance from your body. Generally speaking, you should wait for this period to pass before you drink. 

Please note, the specific half-life will depend on your dose so please speak with your healthcare provider for relevant guidance. 

Can I Take Ibuprofen With Naproxen?

No. Ibuprofen and naproxen are both NSAIDs, so you should not take them at the same time. 

Both of these medicines come with some of the same side effects, so making them together could increase the risk of experiencing issues like inflammation, bleeding, and ulceration. 

It could also result in gastrointestinal perforation, a potentially life-threatening medical emergency in which a hole develops in the stomach or intensive. 

Is Naproxen Stronger Than Ibuprofen?

While they are both NSAIDs and act in similar ways, ibuprofen and naproxen are not the same. The main difference is that ibuprofen is short-acting, while naproxen is a longer-acting drug and so more likely to cause stomach problems. 

Naproxen is considered a stronger option for pain relief than ibuprofen, which is why you need a prescription for a higher dose. In terms of how effective each drug is, a dose of 440mg naproxen is roughly equivalent to a dose of 400mg ibuprofen.

Can You Take Ibuprofen 800 and Naproxen 500 Together?

You should not take any amounts of ibuprofen and naproxen together. Even low doses may increase your risk of experiencing a side effect. 

What happens if you take ibuprofen and naproxen together?

Taking more than one NSAID at once, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, will increase the risk of certain side effects. It also will not relieve your pain any faster, so avoid mixing these two medications together at all costs.

Can I Take Antibiotics With Naproxen?

There are many different types of antibiotics used to treat different infections. Once your doctor or healthcare provider has given you a prescription, you will need to ask for their guidance on mixing them with naproxen. 

Usually, it is not a problem, but you should always check. Certain antibiotics can cause an increased risk of bleeding, and as NSAIDs carry this risk too, it would not be a good idea to take them both at the same time. 

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Can You Take Naproxen While Pregnant?

It’s advised you avoid naproxen if you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding. 

The reason it isn’t advised is that naproxen can cause problems with your baby’s circulation and amniotic fluid levels. For that reason, doctors prefer to offer safe treatments for pregnant women. You will only be advised to take naproxen when you’re pregnant if the benefits obviously outweigh the risks. 

Naproxen also isn’t recommended to breastfeeding mothers, this is because it passes through into breast milk. There have been reports of side effects in babies after inadvertently consuming naproxen through breast milk, these have included effects on the babies’ blood, drowsiness, and being sick. 

You also might want to avoid naproxen if you are currently trying to conceive. This is because taking this class of drug for a long time, or in large doses, can impact ovulation and make it more difficult to get pregnant. 

Can You Drive After Taking Naproxen?

Naproxen comes with a risk of several side effects, including confusion, tiredness, and lethargy. For this reason, you should avoid driving when you first go on naproxen until you have established that you do not suffer from that side effect. 

Likewise, if you increase your dose, you’ll want to avoid driving until you can be sure you’ll be safe on the road and not pose a threat to your own safety or others. 

Does Naproxen 500MG Make You Sleepy?

How much naproxen you take will depend on your reasons for taking it, your age, and the function of your liver and kidneys. Doses are typically lower for older people, along with those dealing with heart, liver, and kidney problems.

As a rough idea, someone taking naproxen for a joint condition would take between 500mg to 1,000mg a day. With that in mind, 500mg is a fairly standard dose, but it could still cause you to feel sleepy as that is a side effect of taking naproxen. 

Is It Better to Take Naproxen at Night?

According to recent research, it may actually be more helpful to take NSAIDs like naproxen in the daytime rather than at night. The study looked at post-operative healing mice. The mice that received NSAIDs during the active part of their day showed faster signs of recovery.

Should I Go Straight to Naproxen?

If you haven’t already, try paracetamol as a first step. It is a decent painkiller and comes with fewer side effects. While it doesn’t reduce inflammation, it can help with muscle and joint conditions.

Will I Get Addicted to Naproxen?

Naproxen is not considered addictive, but nevertheless, you should always take it as prescribed. 

How Soon Does Naproxen Kick In?

You should begin to feel the effects of naproxen around an hour after taking it. However, depending on your condition, it could take several days of taking it twice a day before it works properly. 

Does Naproxen Cause Kidney Failure and Heart Failure?

In rare cases, taking this category of drugs can increase your risk of heart failure and kidney failure. 

How Can I Limit My Risk of Side Effects?

You can reduce your risk of side effects by taking naproxen exactly as prescribed. You can also lower your risk of getting a stomach ulcer, heart failure, or kidney failure by taking the lowest dose over the shortest time frame. 

What if Naproxen Doesn’t Help My Pain?

Naproxen works well for inflammation-based pain, but not all types of pain. For example, if you experience nerve pain, naproxen won’t work.
If you don’t feel it is controlling your pain, speak with your doctor or healthcare provider as they may be able to suggest an alternative pain relief or a different type of treatment, such as physiotherapy. 

Does Naproxen Affect Contraception?

No, naproxen will not affect your contraception. 

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