How does ibuprofen work?
Ibuprofen helps relieve pain caused by inflammation, which occurs when the body produces increased amounts of molecules called prostaglandins when you have an illness or injury.
When prostaglandins are released, they make nearby nerves more sensitive to pain – which helps your body realise something is wrong. So for example, when you put your hand on something sharp, the nearby nerves tell your brain, which sends a message that your hand hurts.
Prostaglandins also make tissues inflamed and swollen – they are one of the reasons why you get a sore throat when you are sick and why a sprained ankle becomes swollen and painful.
Because ibuprofen blocks the production of prostaglandins throughout the body, it can be used to help relieve body pain caused by inflammation.
What is ibuprofen used for?
At over-the-counter doses, ibuprofen is used to provide temporary relief of pain and/or inflammation associated with:
- Headaches (e.g. migraines, tension headaches)
- Muscle pain (e.g. strains and sprains, sport injuries)
- Cold and flu symptoms
- Period pain
- Back pain
- Dental pain
- Joint pain (e.g. arthritic pain)
- Sinus pain
Ibuprofen also reduces fever.
Ibuprofen vs paracetamol: types of pain relievers
Pain relievers available in your supermarket or pharmacy can be divided into two groups:
- Those that mainly act at the site of the pain
- Those that are thought to mainly act centrally – in the brain
Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work by blocking pain signals mainly at the site of pain.
Paracetamol is a different kind of pain reliever that is thought to act mainly in the central nervous system (the brain).
What’s the difference? ibuprofen vs paracetamol
|Type of medicine||Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)||Analgesic|
|How it works||Blocks pain signals mainly at the site of pain||Thought to work mainly centrally (via the brain) to reduce intensity of pain signals|
|Common brand names||Nurofen, Advil, Bugesic, Rafen,Herron Blue||Panadol, Lemsip Max, Dymadon, Febridol, Herron Gold|
History of ibuprofen
Ibuprofen was discovered and developed in the 1950s and 1960s by the research arm of the UK-based Company Boots, led by Dr Stewart Adams and Dr John Nicholson. Boots sold their ibuprofen product to Reckitt Benckiser in 2005.
What is an NSAID?
NSAIDs (short for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), also called anti-inflammatories help relieve pain and reduce inflammation by blocking the production of pain-causing chemicals called prostaglandins.
There are many types of NSAIDs available in both supermarkets and pharmacies. Over-the-counter NSAIDs that you can select for yourself include aspirin, diclofenac, naproxen, and ibuprofen.
Other NSAIDs are available with a prescription from your doctor.