Taking Ibuprofen for Back Pain

Side Effects, Dosage, and More

Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication used to relieve mild to moderate pain. Ibuprofen reduces inflammation as well as fever. It is one of the most common NSAIDs on the market. Ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Motrin, Advil, and several other products, can be purchased over the counter in brand and ​generic forms. This medication can also be obtained via prescription.

Hand with white pills in it
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Ibuprofen is commonly used to reduce pain due to muscle strain, muscle aches, and/or ligament sprain. It is also recommended to reduce pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness due to both non-inflammatory and inflammatory arthritis. This includes osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

Some post-menopausal women use ibuprofen after strength training. A 2016 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. suggests that this could have adverse effects on bone mass—and reduced bone mass is a common problem for post-menopausal women. The study found that ibuprofen consumed immediately after resistance training had a damaging effect on mineral content at the wrist bone (radius).

How It Works

As an NSAID, ibuprofen inhibits prostaglandins, which are inflammatory proteins. This inhibitory effect reduces inflammation and pain.

Forms of Ibuprofen

Whether as Motrin, Advil, Nuprin, or in generic form, ibuprofen can be taken in a number of ways including the following:

  • Tablets
  • Caplets
  • Coated caplets
  • Liquid 
  • Liquid soft gels
  • Drops for infants
  • Drops
  • Chewable tablets
  • And even flavored

Chewable tablets should be taken with food or water, as they could otherwise produce a burning feeling in the mouth or throat. The liquid and drop forms should be shaken well before taking, to be sure the components are evenly mixed.

Dosage Information

Over-the-counter (OTC) ibuprofen products such as Motrin, Advil, or Nuprin come in 200 mg doses. Prescription ibuprofen comes in higher doses, and your healthcare provider will direct you as to how to take them.

Motrin and other ibuprofen products should be taken exactly as directed by your healthcare provider, or as printed on the label. This means that you shouldn't reduce or increase the amount or frequency that your healthcare provider or pharmacist recommends for you.

If you're taking a liquid form, it's important to measure each dose carefully. If the package contains a measuring or dosing cup, use the measuring device provided to ensure that you are getting the right dose.

Unintended Overdose or Drug Interaction

One thing to be careful of when you start taking ibuprofen is unintentional overdosing. If you are taking other NSAIDs in addition to ibuprofen, you may be at risk for accidental overdose. 

Other NSAIDs include OTC aspirin and Aleve (naproxen sodium) and prescription Voltaren (diclofenac), Indocin (indomethacin), and Mobic (meloxicam).

Check the labels or inserts of all medications you take to be sure that you aren't unintentionally taking more than one NSAID.

Missed Doses

If you miss a dose, the general recommendation is to take one as soon as you remember. An exception would be when it is almost time for the next dose. In that case, it will likely be best to wait until it's time for your next dose. In other words, stay as close to your regular dosing schedule and never double dose.

When It Might Not Be for You

If you have other health problems, talk to your healthcare provider before taking ibuprofen.

The FDA warns that using NSAIDs increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, as early as the first weeks of starting. Ask your healthcare provider if Motrin or ibuprofen is right for you, and at which dosage. If it is not a good choice given your condition, perhaps your healthcare provider can suggest a suitable substitute for pain management. The longer you take Motrin, the greater will be your risk for cardiovascular events.

Speak to your healthcare provider about taking Motrin on the day of any type of surgery, including when you are having dental work.

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs also increase the risk of ulcers, bleeding in the stomach, and related GI problems. These known side effects can have very serious consequences, including death. They can occur at any time when taking Motrin and may show up without a previous warning. Again, the wisest thing to do if you already have stomach problems is to speak with your healthcare provider before taking Motrin.

Ibuprofen and alcohol don't mix; taking alcohol with ibuprofen may increase your risk for stomach bleeding.

Ibuprofen may raise your risk for or worsen other health problems. These include (but are not limited to) liver or kidney disease, asthma, polyps in the nose, bleeding and clotting disorders, high blood pressure, and leg swelling. If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use ibuprofen, or you may need your dose adjusted. It's best to speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking this medication.

If you have phenylketonuria, read the package carefully to see if the product contains phenylalanine. If it does, don’t take it.

If you are pregnant or you plan to become pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider before taking Motrin. When taken during pregnancy, it can cause developmental defects. Ibuprofen can be used cautiously by nursing mothers because only a small amount will likely pass through to the child. It is not recommended to give Aleve to a child under the age of 2 except as directed by your healthcare provider.

Drug Interactions

When taking medication with ibuprofen as an active ingredient, it is very important to tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist about other medications, supplements, or drugs you also take. This includes nutritional supplements, herbs, recreational drugs, coffee, and alcohol. These substances can interact with the Motrin and alter the way it works. Your healthcare provider may change your dosage or suggest a different drug for you to take. Also, talk to your healthcare provider if you plan to start or stop taking any of your other medications.

The following is an incomplete list of drugs and other substances that may interact with Motrin. Consult with your healthcare provider if your medication is on this list, and read the “IMPORTANT WARNING” on the package, as well.

  • Alcohol
  • Alendronate, taken to prevent bone loss
  • Other NSAIDs, including aspirin and Aleve. (If you use aspirin or Aleve long term, your chances of stomach bleeding may increase.)
  • Other anti-inflammatory drugs (such as prednisone)
  • Entecavir, for hepatitis-B infections
  • Cidofovir, taken for eye infections in HIV patients
  • Cyclosporine, given to transplant patients
  • Diuretics (water pills)
  • Blood pressure medications, such as ACE inhibitors
  • Medicines that treat or prevent blood clots such as Coumadin (warfarin) and other blood thinners
  • Methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug
  • Pemetrexed, a chemotherapy drug
  • Herbal products that contain feverfew, garlic, ginger, or ginkgo biloba
  • Lithium medication, such as Eskalith Lithobid

Side Effects

While most people can take Motrin without experiencing side effects, a few side effects deserve mention. Some require immediate medical attention; for the others, it's best to consult with your healthcare provider as soon as you can. If you experience serious side effects, stop taking the medication and seek medical attention immediately. Elderly people are at a higher risk for side effects of Motrin.

The non-aspirin NSAID class of drugs, of which Motrin is one, has been found to cause serious and fatal cardiovascular events. Seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pains, weakness, and shortness of breath, slurred speech or vision or balance problems.

Although Motrin may be better tolerated by the stomach than aspirin, problems may still occur. As with any NSAID, GI side effects from ibuprofen can be serious, and even fatal. Symptoms that require immediate medical attention include severe abdominal pain, bloody or black or tarry stools, and coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds—these can signal bleeding in the stomach or intestines,

Allergy is another potential side effect of taking ibuprofen. It may take the form of a rash, wheezing, and/or problems breathing or swallowing. These are very serious side effects, which generally require stopping all ibuprofen and calling your healthcare provider immediately.

Other symptoms that require immediate medical attention include changes in your vision, signs of infection, unexplained weight gain, bruising, cloudy or discolored urine, painful urination, yellowing of the eyes, red eyes, swelling.

If the following symptoms persist, you should talk to your healthcare provider about them:

  • upset stomach, heartburn, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea
  • headache
  • dizzy or lightheaded
  • nervousness
  • ringing in the ears
  • fluid retention

If you have other symptoms that persist, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about those, as well.

Storing Motrin

You can safely store your Motrin by keeping it tightly closed in the container it came in and placed away from heat and moisture. Do not keep it in the bathroom. Also, this drug should be kept at room temperature. Discard it if it is outdated, or if you don’t need it anymore. You can ask your pharmacist the best way to do that. Keep Motrin and other ibuprofen products out of the reach of children.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Duff WR, Chilibeck PD, Candow DG, et al. Effects of ibuprofen and resistance training on bone and muscle: a randomized controlled trial in older women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(4):633-640. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001172

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