Aleve has made a bigger difference in my life than sliced bread. But the effects and side effects of drugs, including OTCs (over-the-counter -- drugs) vary for each individual, even among very similar medications.
What is Aleve?
Aleve is one of several non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), its active ingredient is naproxen sodium. As the name implies NSAIDs have anti-inflammatory properties, but while chemically different generally produce similar results. So the medical texts say anyway. Anyone who has found one NSAID to be a failure and another to work successfully has quite a different tale to tell.
NSAIDs also work in other ways to help reduce pain or fever, such as actions on certain prostaglandins. These are hormone-like fatty acids produced in many body tissues, including the uterus and brain, and target various organs and systems. The results produce a wide-range of effects on the body. For many people these produce desired results, but for others Aleve and other NSAIDs are contraindicated. (See Usage, Experience, Warnings)
Aleve is used for different types of pain and the reduction of fever. While I believe Aleve shines in some areas, in others it would not be my first choice. For instance aspirin and acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol) are less costly, potentially safer, but effective fever reducers. This despite potential liver toxicity attributed to Tylenol. Conversely, Aleve may help relieve symptoms that accompany a fever, so it may in the end make a more effective choice.
Aleve's listed indications should be read from the bottle, but to recap: Aleve is indicated for the _temporary_ relief of minor aches and pains associated with a cold, headache, toothache, muscle aches, backache, minor pain associated with arthritis, menstrual cramps and for the reduction of fever.
Its OTC indications are more limited than that listed for prescription forms of naproxen, its generic name -- this largely due to safety and dosage differences (See Warnings). Personally, I feel the medication works well for moderate pain in some cases.
However, it is not a medication to play doctor with and otherwise should be taken as directed, whether on the bottle or the discretion of your doctor. The standard recommended dose consists of one or two 220mg caplets, and if needed, another tablet can be taken eight to twelve hours later, not to exceed 3 caplets a day.
If you have pain lasting 24 hours or more, and where Aleve may be indicated, it is usually better to take the second dose in this 8-12 hour timeframe, even if the pain is not as severe. It depends on the person and condition but waiting until the next day, or for more than 12 hours, when pain is expected to become more severe may not be the most effective choice. This regular dosing helps break what is known as a pain cycle, and better controls inflammation. When pain escalates it becomes harder to control and in the long run you may end up taking more medicine or have less desirable results. But again the discretion of a health professional familiar with your needs is apt to direct what is best for you.
--- Cramps and Endometriosis ---
Both prescription strength Naprosyn and Aleve have been a Godsend for me in relieving the pain of menstrual cramps and endometriosis. Depending on the severity of pain it works by itself or in conjunction with another analgesic.
I can often expect 2-4 hours of partial to full pain relief in either case during the worst days, longer as the pain gets under control. Albeit this is not a treatment for endometriosis and other measures often need to be taken. As for naproxen in general, if cramps are severe I generally need a prescription dosage for maximum relief. For menstrual cramps without an underlying condition the OTC dose should help a lot of sufferers.
--- Headache and Backache ---
Aleve works like a charm on headaches (tension, viral, or other non-migraine types -- yes even hangovers) for both my spouse and myself. Years ago, I found Extra-strength Excedrin to work well. Since I have Aleve at hand regularly I do not bother with another medication, but also because its effects are quicker and more long lasting. My 'healtier' spouse is not one to try many medications, nor uses them as often as I, but when he has a significant headache or backache he asks for Aleve instead of aspirin, his old standby.
--- Cold: Aches and Pains ---
The drug works fairly well with aches and pains associated with a cold though my medication of choice was Alka-Seltzer Cold Plus (original formula), before it was pulled off the market. Aleve wouldn't necessarily be my first choice here if I wasn't already taking it or instead took a more complete cold symptom remedy. Incidently I recently found out that Aleve has a cold remedy, I may indeed try it.
--- Muscles and Joints ---
Perhaps less dramatically, Aleve helps relieve muscle and joint aches; depending on the cause it may work completely or just take the edge off the pain. Muscle spasms and more severe pain would not generally respond well and not what the medication is designed to treat.
In my experience Aleve works better for mild pain associated with temporary conditions (viral, injury etc.) and not a frontline choice for pains associated with arthritis, including fibromyalgia. Your mileage may vary.
I have not tried Aleve for toothaches, but would consult a dentist on the matter.
Medical supervision is necessary if a health problem is suspected or preexistign. A doctor or pharmacist should be consulted if there are questions or health concerns before or after taking the medicine. Many questions can be answered over the phone. The point is don't hesitate to ask questions or address concerns.
Signs of allergy, including hives or difficulty breathing should be investigated promptly. Medication allergy can be serious and life-threatening. They may even seem somewhat benign at first and later prove otherwise. Any side-effects not listed should also be investigated.
Stomach or abdominal pain and signs of bleeding from the upper or lower GI (gastrointestinal) tract should be promptly investigated. More often though, if Aleve is taken as directed, and for short periods of time, no or only mild side-effects are more likely. Stomach upset or nausea are more common and may be short-lived or temporary effects. Aleve is formulated to be comparatively kind to the GI system, compared to some other NSAIDs. You may wish to take it with some food though to help ward off any problems in this area.
Pain that is out of the ordinary, and that lasting for more than a 3-5 days that is of unknown origin, is another reason to consult a doctor.
---Should You Switch to Aleve?---
Recommend this product?
Motrin (ibuprofen) was the first modern NSAID to be released OTC and several other products eventually followed suit but are less popular. This is unfortunate, as many people do not realize one product may work better, including more rapidly, and instead stick with something they are familiar with.
If what you are taking works well, doesn't cause appreciable side-effects, and is cost-effective, there is probably no reason to switch from what you are currently taking.
If however you think there is room for improvement in these or other areas, as well as having the convenience of less frequent dosing, Aleve may be a better choice for your pain management needs.
Note: A generic equivalent, naproxen sodium, is available from various manufactures. I use the Equate brand, as well as Aleve. I do find Aleve is slightly more effective and easier on the stomache, particularly when used for cramps.
This may be partly due to the fact I often need a higher dose over consecutive days. Otherwise the generic is a cost-effective alternative that works well. On another note, if you take a significant amount of NSAIDs, you may wish to inquire about a prescription from your physician as it too may be more cost-effective, depending on your insurance coverage and co-pay.
Disclaimer: This is a consumer opinion, not meant as a health treatment recommendation, nor meant to take the place of medical advice.