Naproxen

  1. About naproxen

    Naproxen is a medicine that reduces inflammation and pain in joints and muscles. It's used to treat diseases of joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout.

    It's also used for period pain and muscle and bone disorders, such as back pain and sprains and strains.

    Naproxen is available on prescription as tablets or as a liquid that you drink. You can buy it without a prescription from a pharmacy for period pain.

    Naproxen can only be taken by children when it's prescribed for them.

  2. Key facts

    • Take naproxen tablets with or just after a meal or snack.
    • Take the lowest dose of naproxen for the shortest time to control your symptoms.
    • The most common side effects of naproxen are confusion, headache, ringing in the ears, changes in vision, tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness and rashes.
    • Naproxen is also called by the brand names Naprosyn or Stirlescent. Naproxen tablets you buy to treat period pain are called Feminax Ultra.
  3. Who can and can't take naproxen

    Naproxen can be taken by adults.

    It can also be taken under medical supervision by children to treat:

    • muscle and bone disorders for babies from 1 month
    • diseases of the joints for children from 2 years
    • period pain – for girls of any age

    Naproxen isn't suitable for certain people. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you:

    • have had an allergic reaction to naproxen or any other medicines in the past
    • are allergic to aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines (like ibuprofen), or if you've developed signs of asthma (wheezing), runny nose, swelling of the skin (angioedema), or a skin rash
    • have or have had stomach ulcers, bleeding in the stomach or intestines, or a hole in your stomach
    • have high blood pressure
    • have severe liver, kidney, or heart failure
    • have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
    • have lupus
    • have a blood clotting disorder
    • are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
  4. How and when to take

    Always take your naproxen tablets with or just after a meal so you don't get an upset stomach.

    As a general rule in adults, the dose to treat:

    • diseases of joints is 500mg to 1000mg daily in 1 to 2 divided doses
    • muscle, bone disorders and painful periods is 500mg at first, then 250mg every 6 to 8 hours as required
    • attacks of gout is 750mg, then 250mg every 8 hours until the attack has passed

    Doses are usually lower for elderly people and people with heart, liver or kidney problems.

    The doctor will use your child's weight to work out the right dose.

    If you get naproxen on prescription, the dose depends on the reason why you're taking it, your age, how well your liver and kidneys work, and how well it helps your symptoms.

    If you buy naproxen from a pharmacy for painful menstrual periods:

    • on the first day – take 2 tablets when the pain starts, then after 6 to 8 hours one more tablet that day if you need to
    • on the second and following days – take one tablet every 6 to 8 hours if needed

    Don't take more than 3 tablets in 24 hours.

    How to take it

    Naproxen on prescription comes as 2 different tablets – effervescent and gastro-resistant tablets.

    Effervescent tablets are dissolved in water before you take them.

    Gastro-resistant tablets have a coating to protect them from being broken down by the acid in your stomach. Instead, the medicine is released further down the gut in your intestine.

    If you take gastro-resistant tablets, swallow them whole with or after food. Don't crush or chew them.

    If you take effervescent tablets, dissolve 1 to 2 tablets in a glass (150ml) of water and drink.

    Doses of 3 tablets should be dissolved in 300ml. To make sure there is no medicine left, rinse the empty glass with a small amount of water and drink it. Take with or after food.

    What if I forget to take it?

    Take your forgotten dose as soon as you remember, unless it's nearly time for your next dose. Don't take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.

    If you forget doses often, it may help to set an alarm to remind you. You could also ask your pharmacist for advice on other ways to help you remember to take your medicine.

    What if I take too much?

    If you take too many naproxen tablets by accident, you're more likely to get some of the common side effects. If this happens, contact your doctor straight away.

  5. Side effects

    Like all medicines, naproxen can cause side effects although not everyone gets them.

    Common side effects

    Common side effects of naproxen happen in more than 1 in 100 people and include:

    • confusion
    • headache
    • ringing in the ears
    • changes in vision
    • tiredness and feeling sleepy
    • dizziness
    • rashes

    Less common side effects of naproxen happen in more than 1 in 1,000 people. They include:

    • depression
    • irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
    • abnormal dreams
    • forgetfulness
    • difficulty concentrating
    • sensitivity of the skin to light (may cause blistering)
    • difficulty sleeping

    Rarely, naproxen can cause some side effects that happen in less than 1 in 1000 people:

    • hair loss
    • problems with hearing
    • inflammation of blood vessels – causing fever, swelling, and generally not feeling well
    • asthma getting worse
    • muscle weakness and pain
    • ulcers on the inner cheeks, gums and tongue

    Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don't go away.

    Serious side effects

    Tell your doctor straight away if you have:

    • severe indigestion, heartburn, pains in your stomach, feeling sick or vomiting, or diarrhoea (warning signs of an ulcer or inflammation in the stomach or gut)
    • vomiting blood or dark particles that look like coffee grounds, blood in your poo, or black, tarry-looking poo (warning signs of bleeding and perforation of the stomach and gut)
    • frequent sore throat, nose bleeds, and infections (warning signs of abnormalities in your blood cells, known as agranulocytosis)
    • fainting, chest pain, or breathlessness (warning signs of anaemia)
    • fever, feeling sick or vomiting, confusion, headache, neck stiffness and sensitivity to light (warning signs of aseptic meningitis)
    • a severe skin rash with flushing, blisters or ulcers (warning signs of Stevens-Johnson syndrome)
    • blood in your pee, a decrease in how much pee is passed, feeling sick or vomiting (warning signs of kidney damage or infection)
    • feeling tired, loss of appetite, feeling sick or vomiting, pale-coloured poo, and yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice or inflammation of the liver)
    • irregular, slow heartbeats caused by high levels of potassium in the blood
    • fever, stomach pain and vomiting (warning signs of inflammation of the pancreas)

    You can read more about some of these side effects in our common questions.

    Serious allergic reaction

    In rare cases, it’s possible to have a serious allergic reaction to naproxen.

    A serious allergic reaction is an emergency. Contact a doctor straight away if you think you or someone around you is having a serious allergic reaction.

    The warning signs of a serious allergic reaction are:

    • getting a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
    • wheezing
    • tightness in the chest or throat
    • having trouble breathing or talking
    • unusual hoarseness
    • swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat

    These are not all the side effects of naproxen. For a full list see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

    You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.

  6. How to cope with side effects

    What to do about:

    • indigestion – if indigestion starts or gets worse after you take naproxen, stop taking it and see your doctor as soon as possible. If you need something to ease the discomfort, try taking an antacid, but don't put off going to the doctor.
    • feeling sick – it may help if you stick to simple meals and don't eat rich or spicy food. If this doesn't help, talk to your doctor.
    • diarrhoea and vomiting – drink plenty of water if you have diarrhoea or are vomiting, and have small, frequent sips. It may also help to take oral rehydration solutions. You can buy these from a pharmacy or supermarket to prevent dehydration. Don't take any other medicines to treat diarrhoea or vomiting without speaking to a pharmacist or doctor. Tell your doctor straight away if you have blood in your vomit.
    • constipation – if you have constipation, eat more high-fibre foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and cereals, and drink plenty of water. Also exercise more regularly by going for a daily walk or run, for example. If this doesn't help, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
    • wind – too much wind (flatulence) can usually be reduced by changing your diet and lifestyle, such as not eating foods that cause wind (like pulses, lentils, beans and onions), eating smaller meals, eating and drinking slowly, and exercising regularly. You can also buy medicines that help with wind, such as charcoal tablets or simethicone, from a shop or supermarket.
    • skin being sensitive to sunlight – stay out of bright sun and use a high factor sun cream (SPF 15 or above) even on cloudy days. Don't use a sunlamp or sunbeds.
  7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

    Naproxen isn't normally recommended in pregnancy - especially if you're 30 or more weeks - unless it's prescribed by a doctor. This is because there might be a link between taking naproxen in pregnancy and some birth defects, in particular damage to the baby's heart and blood vessels.

    There may also be a link between taking naproxen in early pregnancy and miscarriage. 

    Talk to your doctor about the benefits and possible harms of taking naproxen. It will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are and the reason you need to take the medicine. There may be other treatments that are safer for you.

    Paracetamol is usually recommended as the first choice of painkiller for pregnant women.

    Naproxen and breastfeeding

    Naproxen isn't usually recommended during breastfeeding. Other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, are safer.

    However, if your baby is premature, had a low birth weight, or has an underlying medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking any painkillers.

    Tell your doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, are already pregnant or if you're breastfeeding.

  8. Cautions with other medicines

    There are some medicines that interfere with the way naproxen works. Tell your doctor if you're taking: 

    • other anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
    • medicines that thin the blood, such as warfarin or rivaroxaban
    • steroids, such as prednisolone
    • water tablets, such as furosemide
    • medicines used to treat heart problems and high blood pressure
    • antidepressants, such as citalopram
    • medicine used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, such as methotrexate

    Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies and supplements.

  9. Common questions

Back to top