Aleve for Arthritis: Et Tu, Naproxen?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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aleve for arthritis

NSAID drugs, the common solution for a large number of arthritis and orthopedic injuries, have worked themselves into national guidelines and are handed out like candy at most family doctor and orthopedic offices. However, while they help inflammation, are they a good idea? A new study suggests that a commonly used NSAID, Aleve for arthritis, hurts rather than helps cartilage.

What Are NSAIDs?

NSAID is the abbreviation for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs are used to relieve pain and inflammation. Common over-the-counter NSAIDs include naproxen (e.g., Aleve and Naprosyn), ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Mortin). Prescription NSAIDs include Celebrex (celecoxib), Mobic (meloxicam), Voltaren (diclofenac), Daypro (oxaprozin), and others. Prescription NSAIDs can also be stronger versions of the over-the-counter drugs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen.

What Are NSAID Side Effects?

The medical literature has shown time and time again that NSAIDs are dangerous drugs with many nasty side effects including the following:

These dangerous side effects have led the FDA to issue NSAID warnings as well as pull some prescription NSAIDs, such as Vioxx, off the market. In addition, inflammation in the body has gotten a bad rap (see our practice’s book, Orthopedics 2.0) as it’s essential for normal healing.

How Do Your Joints Fight Wear-and-Tear Arthritis?

Cartilage is made up of chondrocyte cells. Before we get into what naproxen does to cartilage, you need to understand that as chondrocytes become old and dysfunctional, they enter a stage of dying call “hypertrophy.” Much like an older person these days, they put on weight and become physically bigger and less active. This is the beginning of arthritis, as hypertrophic chondrocytes don’t last long against normal wear and tear, so the cartilage begins to break down.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) live in your joints and are the repair cells for cartilage. Once a cartilage cell dies off, MSCs are involved in replacing it. So what happens to the MSCs in your joints determines the overall ability of your joints to repair themselves after normal wear and tear.

Aleve for Arthritis Hurts Cartilage

Naprosyn and Aleve (naproxen) used to be my favorite NSAIDs because they had the least chance of killing you via a sudden-death heart attack. That’s why finding this new research was an eye opener.

The researchers took MSCs from normal healthy patients and donors with hip arthritis. They exposed them to naproxen at the dose that would be expected to make it into the joint if they had taken the medication orally. The naproxen caused the MSCs to become hypertrophic by altering their expression of genes that make proteins (like one called collagen X which is produced by hypertrophic cartilage cells). Basically, taking (naproxen) Aleve for arthritis, hurt the repair cells of the joint, making the cells old before their time.

The upshot? Naproxen is no longer my favorite NSAID, and certainly not Aleve for arthritis. While the other NSAIDs tested didn’t do this, they all have a higher cardiac risk profile, so it seems like you can’t win with this drug class. In the meantime, if you want to get off the NSAID sauce, consider reading our tips for which natural supplements pack as big an anti-inflammatory punch as NSAIDs.

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8 thoughts on “Aleve for Arthritis: Et Tu, Naproxen?

  1. stef

    It would really help if you would put some extra effort (you seam to have some financial ressources) and find a supplier of your supplement north of the border (preferably Québec). If all we have ain’t worth much your expensive supplement become a necessity for some of us.

    You already told me there are federal regulation regarding export of liquid, thus the reminder and the extra push suggested.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Stef,
      Extra pushes and resources don’t help with Federal regulations! You can purchase many of the main ingredients individually at a good health food store. Look for a good Glucosamine Chondroitin supplement with both forms, a Resveratrol supplement, and a good Curcumin supplement. While some ingredients and the proprietary ratios will be missing, those supplements will be much better than an NSAID like Motrin or Aleve. http://www.regenexx.com/blog/supplement-for-cartilage-protection/ http://www.regenexx.com/stem-cell-supplements/

  2. Jan Clemens

    Why not SERRAPEPTASE for inflammation? Aches and pain have been alleviated with 80,000 IU’s half hour before breakfast.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Jan,
      SERRAPEPTASE does not get absorbed very well from the intestines, and it’s properties to liquefy mucous and to reduce the stickiness of bacterial microfilms give it greater potential in respiratory applications. A Turmeric/Curcumin complex is a very effective Anti-inflammatory, as is Fish Oil. This gives important information on how to get off NSAIDS and what things are good replacements: http://www.regenexx.com/blog/nsaid-addict-can/

  3. kurt

    You suggest there is a connection between NSAIDS and Alzheimers Disease. I just read elsewhere that Ibuprofen helps prevent Alzheimers! Different studies, new information always create more questions. For me, I rotate Motrin,
    Aleve, and Aspirin on a daily basis.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Kurt,
      The issue with NSAIDS and Alzheimer’s seems to be timing. What the research shows is that studies that follow subjects earlier in old age, get a false positive benefit for NSAIDS, when in fact, when followed until later in old age, there is a strong connection between NSAID use and Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Good quality fish oil, a Turmeric/Curcumin supplement, and Aspirin might be a safer rotation as you eliminate both the cardiac and Dementia risk, while still getting the benefits of strong anti-inflammatories.

  4. Anthony

    What about aspirin (Buffered) for Arthritis pain. Does it effect Regenexx treatment. Also, If Regenexx treatment fails will hip replacement still be an option

    1. Regenexx Team

      Anthony,
      Aspirin is better than Ibuprofen or Naproxen as it doesn’t have the cardiac risk, but for Arthritis Pain, the better solution would be a good quality fish oil, and, a curcumin/turmeric supplement. IF your considering a Regenexx procedure, the Advanced Stem Cell Support Formula is very helpful as it was designed based on our research to support the stem cells and cartilage in your joints.http://www.regenexx.com/regenexx-advanced-stem-cell-support-formula/ We do ask our patients to refrain from NSAIDS for several weeks before the procedure. A Regenexx procedure would not negatively affect a hip replacement, except hopefully that it won’t be needed!

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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