Naproxen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It reduces swelling (inflammation) and pain in joints and muscles.
It's used to treat:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- period pain
- muscle and bone disorders, such as back pain and sprains and strains
Naproxen is available on prescription as tablets or as a liquid that you swallow.
Who can take naproxen
Most adults can take naproxen. It can also be prescribed to children to treat:
- muscle and bone disorders for babies from 1 month
- conditions which affect the joints for children from 2 years
- period pain for children under 15
Adults and teenagers aged 15 and over can buy it from a pharmacy for period pain.
Naproxen is not suitable for some people. To make sure it's safe for you, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to naproxen or any other medicine
- have ever had an allergic reaction to aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- have or have had stomach ulcers, bleeding in the stomach or intestines, or a hole in your stomach
- have high blood pressure
- have severe liver or kidney failure
- have severe heart failure or other heart problems
- have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
- have lupus
- have a blood-clotting disorder
- are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding
Your dose of naproxen depends on the reason why you're taking it, your age, how well your liver and kidneys work, and how well it helps your symptoms.
Usually, the dose to treat:
- joint conditions is 500mg to 1,000mg a day in 1 or 2 doses
- muscle and bone disorders and painful periods is 500mg at first, then 250mg every 6 to 8 hours as needed
- attacks of gout is 750mg, then 250mg every 8 hours until the attack has passed
Doses are usually lower for older people and people with heart, liver or kidney problems.
For children, the doctor will use your child's weight to work out the right dose.
If you have been prescribed naproxen for painful periods, do not take more than 3 tablets in 24 hours.
Naproxen on prescription comes as 3 different tablets: standard, effervescent and gastro-resistant tablets. It's also available as a liquid.
Always take naproxen with or just after a meal so it does not affect your stomach.
How to take tablets
Gastro-resistant tablets have a coating to protect them from being broken down by the acid in your stomach. Instead, the medicine is released further down the gut in your intestine.
If you take gastro-resistant tablets, swallow them whole, with or after food. Do not crush or chew them.
Effervescent tablets are dissolved in water before you take them.
If you take effervescent tablets, dissolve 1 to 2 tablets in a full glass of water and drink all the contents.
To make sure there's no medicine left, when your glass is empty, put some more water in there – a small amount will do – rinse it around the glass, and drink it.
How to take liquid
Naproxen liquid comes with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the correct dose. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give you the right amount.
How long to take it for
Depending on why you're taking naproxen, you may only need to take it for a short time. For example, if you have a sore back or period pain, you may only need to take naproxen for 1 or 2 days.
You may need to take it for longer if you have a long-term condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
If you need to take naproxen longer than that, your doctor may prescribe a medicine to protect your stomach from side effects.
It's best to take the lowest dose of naproxen for the shortest time to control your symptoms.
Talk to your doctor if you're unsure how long you need to take naproxen for.
If you forget to take it
Take your forgotten dose as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose. In this case, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time.
Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.
If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask a pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.
If you take too much
If you take more than your prescribed dose of naproxen tablets, you're more likely to get some of the common side effects. Contact your doctor straight away.
Common side effects
These common side effects of naproxen happen in more than 1 in 100 people. There are things you can do to help cope with them:
Speak to a doctor or pharmacist if the advice on how to cope does not help and a side effect is still bothering you or does not go away.
Call your doctor or contact 111 now if you have:
- severe indigestion, heartburn, pains in your stomach, feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting) or diarrhoea – these can be signs of an ulcer or swelling (inflammation) in your stomach or gut
- vomiting blood or dark particles that look like coffee grounds, blood in your poo, or black poo that looks like tar – these could be signs of bleeding and perforation of your stomach or gut
- a frequent sore throat, nosebleeds and infections – these can be signs of problems with your blood cells, known as agranulocytosis
- feeling faint, tired or short of breath – these can be signs of anaemia
- blood in your pee, passing less pee, feeling or being sick – these can be signs of kidney damage or infection
- a yellow colour to the whites of your eyes or your skin turns yellow, although this may be less obvious on brown or black skin – these can be signs of jaundice or inflammation of the liver
- irregular, slow heartbeats – this can be a sign of high levels of potassium in the blood
- a high temperature, stomach pain and being sick – these can be signs of inflammation of the pancreas
- you have chest pains – this could be a sign of a heart attack and needs to be checked immediately
- you get a high temperature, feel sick or start being sick, get confused, have a headache, neck stiffness and sensitivity to light – these can be signs of aseptic meningitis
In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to naproxen.
Naproxen can cause an ulcer in your stomach or gut if you take it for a long time.
Your doctor may tell you not to take naproxen if you have a stomach ulcer or you have had one in the past. If you need to take naproxen but are at risk of getting a stomach ulcer, your doctor may prescribe another medicine for you to take alongside naproxen to protect your stomach.
The most common symptom of a stomach ulcer is a burning or gnawing pain in the centre of the stomach. But stomach ulcers are not always painful and some people may have other symptoms, such as indigestion, heartburn and feeling sick.
If you're prone to stomach ulcers or have had one before, take paracetamol instead of naproxen as it's gentler on your stomach.
Other side effects
These are not all the side effects of naproxen. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.
Naproxen and pregnancy
Naproxen is not usually recommended in pregnancy. This is because it may affect your baby, in particular causing problems with their circulation and amniotic fluid levels.
Your doctor will only advise you to take naproxen while you're pregnant if the benefits of taking the medicine clearly outweigh the risks.
There may be other treatments that are safer for you. Paracetamol is generally the best painkiller to take during pregnancy.
Naproxen is not usually recommended while you are breastfeeding. Other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, are safer. But if other painkillers are not suitable, your doctor may tell you to take naproxen.
It is better to only take naproxen for a short time if possible.
Naproxen passes into breast milk in small amounts and is unlikely to harm your baby. But there have been 1 or 2 reports of side effects in babies after having naproxen through breast milk. These have included some effects on the babies' blood, drowsiness and being sick.
If you notice that your baby is not feeding as well as usual, seems drowsy, or has an upset stomach, or if you have any other concerns about your baby, talk to your health visitor, midwife, pharmacist or doctor as soon as possible.
Naproxen and fertility
Taking anti-inflammatory medicines, like naproxen, in large doses or for a long time can affect ovulation, so it may make it more difficult to get pregnant.
Do not take naproxen if you're trying to get pregnant or you're having tests for infertility. Paracetamol is a better painkiller.
There's no clear evidence to suggest that taking naproxen reduces fertility in men.
Cautions with other medicines
There are some medicines that can affect the way naproxen works.
Tell your doctor if you're taking:
- other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- medicines that help to prevent blood clots, such as warfarin or rivaroxaban
- steroids, such as prednisolone
- medicines that make you pee more (diuretics), such as furosemide
- medicines used to treat heart problems and high blood pressure
- antidepressants, such as citalopram
- medicine used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, such as methotrexate
Do not take naproxen with ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). But it's OK to take naproxen with paracetamol or co-codamol that you buy over the counter. This should just be for short periods of time.
If you often need to take extra painkillers with naproxen or for more than a few days, talk to your doctor. Sometimes, taking different painkillers together is a good way to relieve pain, but there may be other treatments you can try.
It's OK to take other painkillers with naproxen for longer if your doctor has given them to you on prescription and told you to take them together.
If you're unsure, talk to your doctor.
Mixing naproxen with herbal remedies and supplements
There's not enough information to say that complementary medicines and herbal remedies are safe to take with naproxen. They're not tested in the same way as pharmacy and prescription medicines. They're generally not tested for the effect they have on other medicines.
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