NSAIDS vs. Exercise for Pain? A PT Shares the Research
NSAIDs vs Exercise for Pain

NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; think Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac to name a few) have become a first line of treatment for many people in pain.


For headaches, fevers and acute injuries they can be immensely helpful. But there are many people who cannot take NSAIDS or prefer not to use medications when possible. There are also a host of other side effects from these medications that can be mild and irritating to severe and life threatening.

A new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine shared great news for those who struggle with pain.


Research About NSAIDs & Exercise for Pain


Researchers found that there was no difference in pain control between use of NSAIDS and paracetamol vs. exercise for pain relief. What does this mean? 

It means that exercise had the same effect as common over the counter pain medications on hip and knee joint pain. It also means that the harmful effects of some medications including stomach pain and ulcers, increased risk of bleeding, and heart attack, can be avoided.

Exercise is Medicine


One of the conclusions of the report was that “Exercise is Medicine”. This has been shown for difficult diagnoses, even for chronic pain. During exercise, our brains can produce potent chemicals that have a calming effect on our nerves. As Adriaan Louw shared in his book on the neuroscience of pain, “after approximately 10 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, the brain produces more of a calming effect on the nerves. Pumping blood and oxygen around nerves also calms them down.”

Ten minutes of exercise is a reachable goal for nearly everyone! The next time you find yourself reaching for an over the counter pain medicine, consider a 10 minute walk followed by a few minutes of stretching. Not only will you avoid unnecessary medications and side effects, you will also be promoting your health, improving your fitness, and decreasing your pain.



If you experience pain or are concerned about how weakness may affect your function, mobility, and pain, go see a physical or occupational therapist! (Book an appointment with us here!) Not sure where to begin? Check out this resource from Rafi on how to incorporate daily exercises into your life . This brief course provides some basic information about exercise and how to develop your own home exercise routine. 

And when in doubt, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist today! 


Courtney O’Neal, PT, DPT. Courtney graduated from Clemson University in 2010, and went on to get her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Augusta University in 2013. She has treated children and adults since 2013, and enjoys working with patients on improving health and wellness, helping them meet their goals, and returning to their highest level of function.



[1] Comparative efficacy of exercise therapy and oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and paracetamol for knee or hip osteoarthritis: a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2023/01/02/bjsports-2022-105898

[2] Why Do I Hurt? Adriaan Louw. Available here.

Are you dealing with pain?

We understand that struggling with the stress and strain of pain can be tough…Whether it’s waking up feeling stiff or severe tension after walking, running, or playing, no one wants to spend each day dealing with the soreness that pain brings. While many people choose surgery or injections for pain relief, at ProActive Rehabilitation & Wellness, we offer non-surgical therapies which prevents patients from going under the knife.


If you’d like to book a pain consultation now, with one of our top clinicians, click the button bellow or have your provider fax over a referral. We only book a limited amount of these consultations each month, so act quickly before they’re gone.

Rafi Salazar OT

Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L (Rafi) is the CEO & President of Proactive Rehabilitation & Wellness, as well as the Principal Owner of Rehab U Practice Solutions and the host of The Better Outcomes Show. He has experience in a variety of rehab settings, working with patients recovering from a variety of injuries and surgeries. He worked as the lead clinician in an outpatient specialty clinic at his local VA Medical center, where he worked on projects to improve patient & employee engagement and experience throughout the organization. He has experience as a faculty member at Augusta University’s Occupational Therapy Program, as a Licensed Board Member on the GA State OT Board, has served on several committees for the national OT Board (NBCOT), and as a consultant working for the State of Georgia’s DBHDD. He is also on the Board of Directors for NBCOT. Rafi also authored the book Better Outcomes: A Guide to Humanizing Healthcare