muscle injury, pain, calf cramp, harm your kidneys

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are widely used to provide pain relief, whether from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle sprain or strain or even severe menstrual cramps. Medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve) are available over the counter, but you might get a prescription for drugs such as celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) or meloxicam (Mobic), to name just a few. As helpful as these medicines can be, they can also cause troublesome side effects. They are well known to irritate the digestive tract and cause ulcers. In addition, they increase your chances of cardiovascular complications. Will they also harm your kidneys?

Could Diclofenac Gel Harm Your Kidneys?

Q. I am especially sensitive to NSAIDs because of impaired kidney function. My doctor prescribed diclofenac gel for a muscle injury. Am I absorbing enough of this product to be harmful?

A. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen can be hard on the kidneys. The official prescribing information for diclofenac warns that long-term administration could cause renal injury.

It is not clear whether you would absorb enough diclofenac from a topical gel to harm your kidneys. This is best determined by frequent monitoring. Ask your doctor to check your kidney function carefully.

Reader Stories:

A few readers report kidney damage as a side effect of NSAIDs, but all were taking oral medications and not using a topical gel.

Jim H. wrote:

“I suffered kidney damage from extended use of ibuprofen. Uva ursi tea daily for a year with no NSAID helped restore normal function.”

Marie confessed:

“I took prescribed naproxen and Lortab together by mistake, and now I have stage 3 kidney failure. My nephrologist and urologist said nothing could be done. Apparently it messed up the lining of the kidney.”

GG reported:

“My husband has been under the care of a nephrologist for many years. His kidneys now function at 20% and he is too old for dialysis. The nephrologist believes his kidney deterioration was caused by taking Aleve (naproxen) for arthritis pain for many years.”

If you are looking for a nondrug approach to easing the pain of arthritis or a muscle strain, you will find some helpful ideas in our online Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Peggy

    I had overworked my body Monday, and I was very sore the next day. Without realizing what I was doing I drank an extra glass of honey vinegar and water and realized within an hour I was not sore anymore. Just another use for the remedy that I use for arthritis cramps and whatever else bothers me.

  2. Joan

    Both my husband and I have been using a small amount ( that is all that is needed) of Voltaren gel for years. It has been very effective in enabling me to avoid knee replacements and my husband, back surgery. When I first asked my orthopedic doctor about using it, he checked how much was absorbed by the kidneys and decided that it was ok to use.

    In fact at the time, Voltaren wasn’t available in the US. We purchased it in Mexico, Europe, or Asia. Now we purchase it OTC in Canada. Every year we have our “wellness” exams which include CBC and BMP. Kidney functions remain ok.

  3. Laura

    A year ago my blood tests showed my GFR at 53, which is not good. On Sept. 27, 2016, I took my last nsaids and tylenol. A couple of weeks ago Sept. 24. 2017, I had my annual blood tests again, and my GFR was back where it belonged >60. I am very thankful.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.