Over-the-counter NSAIDs, or “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” can be an effective way to calm redness, swelling, and pain from plantar fasciitis–particularly if symptoms have been present for less than 6-8 weeks.
But are all over-the-counter NSAIDs alike? Which one is best for treating heel pain and plantar fasciitis? And what other treatments should you use in tandem with NSAIDs to heal plantar fasciitis quickly and effectively?
We have your answers!
Are All NSAIDS The Same?
While all NSAIDs reduce swelling, redness, pain, and inflammation, you should be aware of some key differences between popular over-the-counter NSAIDs that you should be aware of. Each type of NSAID will differ in potency, onset time, how long it remains in the body, and how well it blocks prostaglandins (instrumental in causing inflammation).
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
Ibuprofen is the most common and popularly used over-the-counter NSAID. This drug moderately blocks prostaglandins and has a low risk of GI-tract bleeding and irritation of the stomach lining when used in moderate doses, usually 6,000 mg every 6 hours
Naproxen is another popular over-the-counter NSAID that moderately blocks prostaglandins. Like ibuprofen, it has a risk of irritating the stomach lining and causing GI-tract bleeding if used in very high doses, but when used moderately, the risk is very low. Naproxen may cause sensitivity to light.
Ketoprofen (Orudis, Oruvail)
Ketoprofen is another very aggressive prostaglandin blocker and is very effective but should be used with care, since it has a high risk of irritating the stomach and can cause ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding if used improperly or excessively. Ketoprofen can also cause increased sensitivity to light. These are prescription drugs so your podiatrist or general practitioner will need to recommend these drugs.
Aspirin (Bayer, Ecotrin)
While this NSAID is aggressive in blocking prostaglandins, it carries a low risk of ulcers and irritation of the stomach lining when used in moderation. You should be aware that aspirin can cause respiratory reactions. Do not use aspirin with NSAIDs.
All NSAIDs, if used for long periods of time, can cause kidney damage and eventual damage to the gastrointestinal tract (nausea, bleeding, and vomiting). It’s advisable to use NSAIDS for short periods of time, as needed, to address inflammation and pain.
Which Anti Inflammatory Is Best for Heel Pain?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that ibuprofen is a particularly effective NSAID to address heel pain and plantar fasciitis, because of its high prostaglandin-blocking abilities and low risk of GI-irritation when used in moderate doses.
It’s important to understand that every person responds differently to different NSAIDs, and it’s a good idea to experiment with different over-the-counter NSAIDs to find the one you like best. Depending on the severity of your pain and your experience with over-the-counter NSAIDs, your doctor may also recommend trying more powerful prescription NSAIDs.
Acetaminophen or Tylenol can help ease the pain but has minimal anti-inflammatory effects.
Anti Inflammatories as a One-Two Punch
While NSAIDs are both effective and useful, it’s critical to understand that they aren’t a miracle cure–or a cure at all. NSAIDs effectively–but temporarily–reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. The underlying cause of plantar fasciitis and heel pain must be addressed for true healing to take place.
The good news is, 90% of plantar fasciitis cases can be resolved with conservative, at-home treatment methods, particularly if symptoms are addressed early! Since all NSAIDs carry the risk of GI-irritation and other negative side effects if used to excess, it’s important to investigate and use sustainable treatments for plantar fasciitis and heel pain that not only relieve pain but strengthen and heal the plantar fascia itself.
Commit to treatment methods like stretching, icing, rest, and wearing special orthotic inserts that treat your pain while keeping you active.
There’s little question that NSAIDs are a terrific tool for temporarily addressing heel pain and paving the way for other conservative treatment methods. Remember to moderate your use of these helpful drugs, and to use them in tandem with treatments that address the underlying cause of your heel pain.