Ibuprofen for pain and inflammation

Ibuprofen is a medicine called a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It is also known as 'an NSAID'.

Speak with a doctor before taking ibuprofen if you have ever had a bad reaction to any other anti-inflammatory painkiller.

Take ibuprofen with a drink of milk, or after a meal or snack.

Type of medicine Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
Used for Relief of pain and inflammation
Also called Brufen®; Calprofen®; Nurofen®; Orbifen®; Fenbid®
Available as Tablets, capsules, granules, oral liquid medicine, modified-release tablets and capsules, orodispersible (melt in the mouth) tablets

Anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen are sometimes called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or just 'anti-inflammatories'. Ibuprofen is used to treat painful conditions such as arthritis, sprains and strains, period (menstrual) pain, migraine headaches, dental pain, and pain after surgical operations. It eases pain and reduces inflammation. Ibuprofen can also be used to relieve cold and 'flu-like' symptoms including fever (high temperature). It can be taken by adults and children.

Ibuprofen works by blocking the effect of chemicals called cyclo-oxygenase (COX) enzymes. These enzymes help to make other chemicals in the body, called prostaglandins. Some prostaglandins are produced at sites of injury or damage, and cause pain and inflammation. By blocking the effect of COX enzymes, fewer prostaglandins are produced, which means pain and inflammation are eased.

Ibuprofen is available on prescription, and you can also buy it without a prescription at pharmacies and other retail outlets.

Ibuprofen is also available as a gel which can be applied directly to your skin to help relieve muscle and joint pain - there is more information about this in a separate medicine leaflet called Ibuprofen gel for pain relief.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking ibuprofen, it is important that your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist knows:

  • If you have asthma or any other allergic disorder.
  • If you have ever had a stomach or duodenal ulcer, or if you have an inflammatory bowel disorder such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby, or breast-feeding.
  • If you are over 65 years of age.
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have a heart condition, or a problem with your blood vessels or circulation.
  • If you have high blood pressure.
  • If you have ever had blood clotting problems.
  • If you have a connective-tissue disorder, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (an inflammatory condition also called lupus, or SLE).
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any other NSAID (such as aspirin, naproxen, diclofenac, and indometacin), or to any other medicine.
  • Before you start taking ibuprofen, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The manufacturer's leaflet will give you more information about ibuprofen and provide a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • The usual dose for adults and children over 12 years of age is 200-400 mg of ibuprofen, 3 or 4 times daily if needed. The dose will be different to this, however, if you have been prescribed a tablet or capsule which releases ibuprofen slowly; these are called modified-release preparations. There are several different brands of tablets and capsules available, so always remember to check the label of the pack to make sure you are taking the recommended amount. If you are giving ibuprofen liquid medicine to a child, the dose you will need to give depends on your child's age. Check the label on the medicine bottle carefully to make sure that you are giving the correct amount. The following children's doses are provided as a guide:
    • 3-6 months: 50 mg (2.5 ml) 3 times daily.
    • 6-12 months: 50 mg (2.5 ml) 3 or 4 times daily.
    • 1-4 years: 100 mg (5 ml) 3 times daily.
    • 4-7 years: 150 mg (7.5 ml) 3 times daily.
    • 7-10 years: 200 mg (10 ml) 3 times daily.
    • 10-12 years: 300 mg (15ml) 3 times daily.
  • Taking ibuprofen with a glass of milk or after eating some food can help prevent unwanted side-effects such as indigestion.
  • If you have been prescribed a modified-release form of ibuprofen (such as Brufen Retard® or Fenbid®), swallow the tablet or capsule whole with a glass of water. Do not crush or break the tablets, and do not chew or open the capsules.
  • If you have been prescribed a sachet containing ibuprofen granules, mix the contents of the sachet into a glass of water to make a fizzy drink. Drink it straightaway after mixing it.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
  • Your doctor will try to prescribe you the lowest dose for the shortest time to reduce the risk of side-effects. If you need to take ibuprofen for a long time, your doctor may want to prescribe another medicine along with it to protect your stomach from irritation.
  • Try to keep any regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress, and is especially important if you are taking ibuprofen for a long-term condition.
  • If you have asthma, symptoms such as wheeze or breathlessness can be made worse by anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen. If this happens to you, you should stop taking ibuprofen and see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with ibuprofen. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common ibuprofen side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Indigestion, heartburn, abdominal discomfort Remember to take your doses with a meal or with a glass of milk. If the discomfort continues, speak with your doctor
Feeling or being sick, diarrhoea Stick to simple meals. Drink plenty of liquid to replace any lost fluids

Important: if you experience any of the following uncommon but possibly serious symptoms, stop taking ibuprofen and contact your doctor for advice straightaway:

  • If you have any breathing difficulties such as wheeze or breathlessness.
  • If you have any signs of an allergic reaction such as swelling around your mouth or face, or an itchy skin rash.
  • If you pass blood or black stools, vomit blood, or have abdominal pains.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
3231 (v25)
Last Checked:
15/10/2013
Next Review:
14/10/2016
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