Skip to main content

Top 9 Things You Must Know About Naproxen

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Feb 9, 2022.

Generic Name: naproxen (na PROX en), naproxen sodium (​​na PROX en SOW de um)
Common Proprietary Names: Aleve (tablets, caplets, gelcaps, liquid gels), Anaprox-DS, EC-Naprosyn, Flanax Pain Reliever, Midol IB, Naprelan, Naprosyn. Naproxen is also available in combination with other products as: Aleve PM, Aleve-D Sinus and Cold, Treximet, and Vimovo

How often do you need pain relief? If you suffer from low back pain, an aching knee, strained muscles, arthritis, throbbing headaches, tooth pain or any other myriad of painful conditions, you are not alone. It is estimated that chronic pain (pain lasting over 3 months) affects more than 100 million Americans. In fact, pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.

Medications in the class of drugs known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are the workhorse of pain and fever relief for millions of people. Not surprisingly, NSAIDs are one of the most commonly used class of drugs in the world.

Available in various formulations with or without a prescription, NSAIDs work to relieve inflammation and pain by inhibiting cyclooxygenase and reducing prostaglandin production - in other words, blocking a mechanism of pain. However, this pain relief does not come without important warnings for effective and safe use of naproxen products.

1. Naproxen and naproxen sodium are available in many forms

You can take naproxen orally by tablet, capsule or as a liquid suspension, in an extended-release formulation, surrounded by an enteric coating, combined with a proton pump inhibitor to help protect your stomach, with a decongestant to relieve sinus pressure, or even combined with an antimigraine medicine or an agent to help you sleep. You can get it with a prescription, or without.

Naproxen comes in two forms - either as the base naproxen or as the salt form naproxen sodium. Both the base and salt forms work the same way to relieve pain. There is one difference -- naproxen base on a milligram-per-milligram basis is slightly stronger than naproxen sodium. Here’s how it works out -- 220, 275, or 550 mg of naproxen sodium equals 200, 250, and 500 mg of naproxen, respectively. However, you don’t need to worry about any conversion as these slight differences are already taken into account when the dose is determined. Just follow your directions on the label.

2. Familiar naproxen products:

Over-the-counter (OTC) naproxen sodium:

Prescription-only names of naproxen sodium include:

Prescription-only names of naproxen base include:

Other combos:

  • Vimovo (esomeprazole and naproxen): helps protect against ulcers
  • Treximet (naproxen sodium and sumatriptan): for acute migraine headache

3. Save money: naproxen comes in generic options

Naproxen and its salt formulation have been around for a long time. In fact, the FDA approved the first formulations of naproxen sodium in 1980. That’s good news, because formulations of many naproxen and naproxen sodium drugs are now available generically, saving you dollars at the pharmacy.

For example, you can easily use the generic OTC naproxen to get the same pain relief as you would from the more expensive prescription brands. Just be sure to ask your doctor what the equivalent OTC dose would be based on your indication. The OTC products come in a lower strength than many prescription options, so you may need to take a higher OTC dose.

Naproxen is available over-the-counter (OTC) for relief of menstrual cramps, but generics work just as well and save you money, too. For menstrual cramps, it may be less expensive to use the generic or store brand naproxen sodium than the branded products, so it’s worth a comparison. Be sure to check the package size, too, to be sure you are getting a good deal.

Learn more: Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Medication Costs

4. Naproxen has many uses in many different age groups

Naproxen and its sodium salt are used for many different types of pain, and it is an excellent fever reducer, too. Below are just some of the common uses for naproxen:

The safety and effectiveness of naproxen is not known in children less than 2 years of age. The over-the-counter (OTC) products are only labeled for children 12 years and older.

If deemed appropriate, a doctor can prescribe some formulations for children as young as 2 years of age for:

You must first check with your doctor to use any form of naproxen in children under 12 years of age.

Naproxen should be used cautiously and at the lowest possible dose (if at all) in the elderly, especially those at risk for, or with a history of stomach, heart or intestinal ulcers or bleeding.

5. Is naproxen safe for the heart?

You may have heard that naproxen is safer for the heart compared to other NSAIDs like ibuprofen, diclofenac, meloxicam, or celecoxib; however, this is a controversial topic.

The FDA has determined that the available studies are not robust enough and were not designed to determine if one NSAID was safer than any other with respect to heart safety (cardiovascular thrombotic events). The FDA has stated that "based on available data, it is unclear whether the risk for cardiovascular thrombotic events is similar for all non-aspirin NSAIDs."

In addition, when determining the safety of a drug for a patient, risk factors such as age, other medical conditions, other medications and drug interactions, doses needed, and duration of treatment need to be taken into consideration.

Since 2005, labeling laws have required a boxed warning on all NSAIDs alerting of increased cardiovascular risks, like heart attack and stroke. That warning was a result of the withdrawal of the NSAID Vioxx (rofecoxib) from the market in 2004 because of a notable increased risk of heart attack among Vioxx users. Celebrex (celecoxib), another COX-2 selective NSAID, is still on the U.S. market.

The heart warning on all NSAID labels state that this class may cause an increased risk of serious and sometimes fatal heart and blood vessel problems (like a heart attack or stroke). The risk may occur early in treatment, be greater if you already have heart problems or if you take NSAIDs for a long period of time. Additionally, the label warns that NSAIDs should not be used (they are contraindicated) right before or after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.

6. Can NSAIDs hurt my stomach?

Boxed warnings on naproxen labels also alert patients to an increased risk of serious and sometimes fatal stomach or intestine ulcers, bleeding and perforation. Elderly patients (those over 65 years of age) and those with a history of ulcer disease or bleeding in the digestive tract may be at a greater risk. This effect can occur without any warning signs.

NSAIDs may also worsen intestinal diverticulitis. Patients with a history of diverticulitis should speak with their doctor about the safety of using NSAIDs.

You should avoid using aspirin and other anticoagulants (blood "thinners") with NSAIDs, for example:

Check with your doctor before you combine blood thinners with NSAIDs, as you may increase your risk for serious bleeding.

7. Be sure: check your naproxen drug interactions

Be sure to alert your pharmacist and physician of all of the medications you take, so that they can screen for clinically significant drug interactions with naproxen, even if you buy it over-the-counter (OTC).

Over 400 drugs are known to interact with naproxen. Naproxen also has several food and alcohol interactions you should take note of and discuss with your pharmacist. You can also review significant disease interactions that may be affected by the use of naproxen, like high blood pressure.

Always check drug interactions with all of your prescription, over-the-counter, and vitamin or herbal products, too.

8. Pregnant? Speak with your doctor before NSAID use.

It is important that you ask your doctor for advice before taking any drug in pregnancy. This applies to NSAIDs, too, even the ones bought over-the-counter.

For mild pain and headaches in pregnant women, most physicians usually recommend acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Use of NSAIDs at 20 weeks’ gestation or later may cause kidney problems in the baby or low amniotic fluid volume (oligohydramnios). Naproxen (and all other NSAIDs) should be avoided in pregnancy (usually during the third trimester) because it may cause premature closure of the ductus arteriosus, which can lead to heart failure and death of the fetus. Other problems may occur too.

9. Join the naproxen support group

Support groups on may be helpful for patients who use medications for pain relief, have multiple conditions, and who are searching for the latest news. In fact, pain is one of the top medical condition support groups on Joining one or more support groups is a great way to discover others with similar conditions or using related medications, and to share your own experience.

There are close to 700 user reviews for naproxen from people who use this drug for arthritis, back pain, headache and other various conditions (some of which may be off-label use, meaning the drug is not approved by the FDA for that particular use). Here you can ask a question, share an experience, browse through the latest blog posts and questions, and see other ratings from patients who are using naproxen.

Remember, the information is NOT intended to endorse naproxen or recommend drug therapy. While these reviews might be helpful to you, they are NOT a substitute for the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgement of your healthcare provider.


Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.