Is Aleve an NSAID? Here’s Everything You Need To Know!


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If you’ve dealt with pain before, you’ve likely reached for an over-the-counter pain medication like Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol to find some relief. But do you know the differences between these common drugs and what conditions they treat best? In this blog post, we’ll explore the critical question: Is Aleve an NSAID? 

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Advil and Aleve reduce pain and inflammation. Acetaminophen like Tylenol works differently – it lowers fevers and relieves headaches and minor aches but doesn’t reduce inflammation.

Knowing whether Aleve is an NSAID helps us understand how it works in the body compared to other OTC options. This knowledge empowers us to make the best choice for our specific pain.

We’ll also compare and contrast Aleve to other standard pain medications. Understanding the uses, side effects, and differences between Aleve vs Ibuprofen vs. Acetaminophen allows us to tailor treatment to our symptoms. Let’s dive in and unlock the answer to this critical question!

Is Aleve an NSAID? Check The Truth

NSAID Medication

Yes, Aleve is an NSAID. Its generic name is naproxen sodium. NSAIDs work by blocking cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which drive pain and inflammation in the body. By inhibiting COX enzymes, Aleve provides analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects.

Advil vs. Aleve vs. Tylenol 

Now that we know Aleve belongs to the NSAID drug class, how does it compare head-to-head against other common OTC pain options? We’ll break down Aleve vs. Ibuprofen (Advil) vs. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) by exploring their uses, side effects, and key differences.

➡️ Uses

Aleve effectively reduces fever, arthritis pain, headache, backache, muscle aches, toothaches, and menstrual cramps. Its anti-inflammatory properties make Aleve a top choice for inflammatory pain like arthritis.

Ibuprofen/Advil shares most of the same pain-fighting abilities as Aleve, including relief of fever, headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. It also reduces inflammation that causes swelling and pressure. 

While Aleve and Advil treat an extensive range of aches and pains, Tylenol has more limited uses. It works well for minor body aches, headaches, toothaches, colds, flu, fever, and some arthritis pain. But unlike NSAIDs, acetaminophen doesn’t ease inflammation.

➡️ Side Effects

All medications carry potential adverse reactions. Common side effects of both Aleve and Advil include heartburn, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, and upset stomach or nausea. More severe side effects are rare but can include liver toxicity, kidney problems, allergic reactions, and stomach bleeding or ulcers.

Acetaminophen/Tylenol is less likely to trigger side effects if taken as directed. However, liver damage can occur in cases of overdose. All three meds can interact with other drugs and health conditions, so check with your doctor.

➡️ Key Differences

Now let’s summarize a few essential differences between these OTC painkillers:

– Aleve lasts longer – Up to 12 hours vs 8 hours for Advil and 4-6 hours for regular Tylenol. 

– Aleve is easier on the stomach than other NSAIDs. Its delayed-release coating helps prevent upset stomach.

– Advil works slightly faster than Aleve – About 10-30 minutes vs 30-60 minutes. 

– Acetaminophen doesn’t reduce inflammation, unlike the NSAIDs Aleve and Advil.

Aleve Uses

We’ve covered that Aleve works well for a variety of aches, pains, fevers, and inflammatory conditions. Let’s explore some of the top uses for Aleve in more detail:

➡️ Arthritis Pain

With its potent anti-inflammatory properties, Aleve shines at easing joint pain from arthritis. It blocks COX-2 enzymes partly responsible for the inflammation that damages cartilage and bone over time. For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis flares, Aleve can offer substantial relief when taken as directed.

➡️ Back Pain or Strains 

Muscle strains and spine conditions often involve painful inflammation compressing nerves. Aleve interrupts this inflammatory process to reduce swelling, relax muscles, and take pressure off pinched nerves. For sudden back injuries or chronic lower back pain, Aleve helps restore mobility.  

➡️ Headaches or Migraines

For many headache sufferers, OTC painkillers provide much-needed relief during migraine attacks or frequent tension headaches. Compared to other NSAIDs, Aleve generally causes less stomach upset when treating headaches. Its extended 12-hour duration of action also comes in handy for stubborn migraine pain.

➡️ Menstrual Cramps

Painful menstruation stems from inflammation-inducing chemicals called prostaglandins. Aleve blocks the release of these chemicals to ease uterine cramping and muscle contractions. For many experiencing moderate-severe cramps, Aleve can mean the difference between comfort and misery during that time of the month.

➡️ Toothaches

A throbbing toothache probably indicates inflamed nerves under your gums. Anti-inflammatory Aleve constricts blood vessels to decrease swelling and pressure on those aggravated nerves. Until you can see a dentist, popping some Aleve may save your sanity.

Aleve Side Effects

While generally safe when used correctly, all medications have potential side effects. Understanding the risks allows us to weigh the benefits vs. drawbacks and make informed treatment decisions. 

Common Aleve side effects most likely include:

  • Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Take Aleve with food or milk to reduce GI issues.
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, headache. Avoid driving or operating machinery if affected.
  • Skin itching or rash. Discontinue Aleve if a rash develops.
  • Ringing in the ears or difficulty hearing. This typically resolves soon after stopping the medication. 

More serious but rare Aleve side effects can include:

  • Kidney problems like failure or acute interstitial nephritis. Risk increases with high doses taken long term.
  • Stomach or intestinal bleeding, ulcers, perforation, particularly in seniors. Can be life-threatening without swift treatment.
  • Liver toxicity or damage at high doses, especially with alcohol overuse.
  • Life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Seek emergency help for swelling, hives, and trouble breathing.
  • Asthma attacks or breathing difficulty in aspirin-sensitive people. Naproxen can trigger similar reactions.
  • Vision changes, fluid retention, blood disorders, and seizures have also occurred in rare cases. Like any med, discuss risks/benefits with your doctor before starting an Aleve regimen.

Aleve vs Ibuprofen

Aleve and Advil share the same classification as NSAID pain relievers. But how do they compare head-to-head on uses, duration, side effects, and other factors? Let’s break it down.

➡️ Uses

Aleve and Advil both treat a wide range of pain symptoms stemming from headaches, arthritis, muscle aches, mensural cramps, toothaches, colds/flu, and fevers. No clear advantage for either drug regarding uses.

➡️ Duration 

Big distinction here – Aleve works for 12 hours compared to about 8 hours for Advil. This longer action lets you dose less frequently.

➡️ Onset of Action

Advil starts working slightly faster than Aleve – 30 minutes vs 1 hour. Helpful when you need fast pain relief.  

➡️ Side Effects

Both Aleve and Advil can trigger stomach upset, heartburn, headache/dizziness, liver or kidney toxicity, allergic reaction, and other issues if overused. The risk seems slightly higher with regular Advil for GI bleeds.

➡️ Cost 

The brand name Aleve usually costs a little more than Advil. However generic naproxen sodium is often cheaper than generic ibuprofen.

➡️ Inflammation Reduction

As NSAIDs, Aleve and Advil are comparably effective at lowering inflammation. Aleve rates an edge for arthritis specifically.

The takeaway? For longer relief of arthritis pain, Aleve makes more sense. Advil works faster and costs less but doesn’t last as long as Aleve. Discuss your specific needs with a doctor to make the optimal choice.


We’ve explored several angles of the question – is Aleve an NSAID? Yes, Aleve belongs to this class of non-aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Its generic name, naproxen sodium, sets it alongside famous NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin. 

Understanding that Aleve is an NSAID tells us it works by blocking inflammatory COX enzymes to relieve swelling, pain, and fever. This knowledge helps us select Aleve strategically over acetaminophen like Tylenol when fighting inflammation is our goal.

We also weighed Aleve vs. Advil vs. Tylenol across uses, side effects duration, and other factors. While all three relieve some aches and pains, NSAIDs Aleve and Advil additionally take down inflammation driving many common pain conditions. 

The better we understand our pain – its causes and best treatment options – the faster we find relief. And without abuse or overuse which triggers med side effects. Does this breakdown on Aleve help you feel better equipped to manage pain wisely going forward? What further questions do you have? Let me know in the comments!


Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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