Diclofenac is a generic, very common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Inflammation is one of the body’s natural protective responses to any tissue that signals it is irritated or damaged, possibly by a foreign agent of infection. Acute or chronic inflammation, however, has the unfortunate concomitant effect of destroying proximate healthy tissue while healing those damaged. This may be felt as pain. As an analgesic, or painkiller, diclofenac tablets come in several different forms, strengths, and brand names.
Steroidal drugs are effective against inflammation and its associated pain; but steroids are natural hormones and have systemic effect on the body; their excessive use often causes unwanted side effects. NSAIDs work by neutralizing the chemicals that trigger the body’s inflammation response. Relief from pain is its secondary effect. Its antipyretic, or fever-reducing, property is also a secondary effect. The most commonly known NSAID is aspirin.
Diclofenac is an abbreviation of the drug’s chemical name: dichloranilino phenylacetic acid. It can be administered as an injection or intravenously in liquid form. It can be suspended in gel form for topical applications such as lotions and controlled-release skin patches, a method common for relieving the discomfort of joint injuries and arthritis. The saline solution is also available in capsules, but most commonly it is reduced to a solid form for oral ingestion. Diclofenac tablets are stabilized into either a salt of sodium or potassium.
Diclofenac is available in many countries as an over-the-counter medication for minor aches, pain and fever without need of a physician’s prescription. Dosage is typically 25 milligrams, or 50 milligrams for “extra strength.” In the Middle East and elsewhere, the brand name Cataflam® is a potassium tablet. In Europe and other countries, the sodium salt version of the drug is sold as the brand name Voltaren®. Throughout the rest of the world, it is sold as many other brand names appropriate to different languages and cultures.
Some diclofenac tablets are formulated with additional medications, such as narcotics, in part to better treat specific physical conditions, including the pain and complications associated with certain types of cancers. Other formulations have been created to try and mitigate some of the drug’s possible side effects, the most common being stomach and other gastrointestinal irritation but also including rare serious complications. Although the evidence is strong that the drug is safe used as directed, and highly effective, it is nevertheless advisable to consult a physician or pharmacist when considering the choice of self-medicating minor pain with diclofenac tablets.