Expert Health Articles

Ibuprofen Usage

You have sore muscles, so you take ibuprofen. You have a headache, so you take ibuprofen. You have arthritis pain, so you take ibuprofen. However, is it really safe to take ibuprofen regularly?

Ibuprofen is a pain reliever that is an over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for a range of aches and pains, including joint pain, muscular pain, toothaches, menstrual pain, and arthritis. It is available as tablets, capsules, syrup, as well as topical gel that you can rub into your skin. It is also available as an ingredient in combination remedies. While you can buy these over the counter, there are some formulations that are prescription only.

Most people believe over-the-counter medicine is safe in all regards, but the matter of fact is, like anything else, it can potentially be very dangerous. A large study estimated NSAIDS are responsible for 107,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths a year in the U.S., among arthritis patients alone. The figures for all NSAID users would be overwhelming, however, the scope of this problem is under-appreciated. Some negative effects of using ibuprofen incorrectly or consistently may include gastrointestinal problems (such as bleeding and ulcerations), heart attacks, high blood pressure, kidney damage, liver toxicity, nausea and stroke.

Ibuprofen can interact with other medications, as well, which can lead to seriously adverse effects, including death. Some of these interactions include blood thinners, heart medication, seizure medication, immunosuppressive medication and other NSAIDs. You should check with your primary care provider before taking ibuprofen if you have heartburn, heart or kidney problems or if you are pregnant.

Overall, as a general rule, most healthy people can feel fairly safe utilizing ibuprofen for about three to four days. An individual can take 400-600 mg three times per day, with food. Otherwise it can have a negative impact on your stomach.

If possible, try to seek alternatives. Topical NSAID creams and gels, as well as other topical pain relievers, can sooth sore muscles. NSAID creams and gels, along with heat or ice application to areas of discomfort, can bring down minor swelling. Holistic measures such as massage, acupuncture, and yoga also promote overall wellness.

If you find yourself turning to ibuprofen on a regular basis to help with pain and discomfort, talk to your provider to try to identify the underlying cause, as it never should be used to the point of an everyday medication. Treating the root of the problem correctly would benefit your overall health and may save you from creating another health concern.

Jason Wartgow, APRN-CNP

McComb Family Practice

Certified Nurse Practitioner