What You Should Know About Voltaren (Diclofenac) and Advil (Ibuprofen)

Pink pills with glass of water isolated on white background - stock photo

JosefKubes/Getty Images

Voltaren (diclofenac) and Advil (ibuprofen) are two medications that take on inflammation, fever, and pain. Part of a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), these drugs are often used to manage symptoms of a range of conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-operative pain, fever, and menstrual cramps, among others.

Though they have very similar effects on the body, there are key differences. In its pill or tablet form, you need a prescription for Voltaren and only a topical form is available without one. On the other hand, Advil (often sold as Motrin) comes in both prescribed and over-the-counter forms.

Being of the same class of medications, Voltaren and Advil also may interact with each other, hindering efficacy and increasing risks of side effects. If you’re treating pain and inflammation—either due to arthritis or another condition­—it’s important to understand how these drugs work, as well as their similarities and differences.

How Voltaren and Advil Are Similar

What Advil and Voltaren have in common is the way they act on the body. Basically, they inhibit the activity of a specific enzyme, cyclooxygenase (COX), which regulates pain and inflammatory responses.

In sites of infection, injury, or damage to tissues, this enzyme stimulates substances called prostaglandins. These are associated with pain sensation, and they help regulate blood flow and aid in blood clotting. By limiting the effect of COX, Advil and Voltaren relieve pain (analgesia) and reduce swelling.

How Voltaren and Advil Are Different

The differences between these two drugs primarily have to do with the strength of the dosage, with Voltaren being the more potent of the two. As such, aside from its topical form (a cream spread on affected areas), Voltaren is only available in the U.S. with a prescription.

Voltaren pills or tablets, coming in 25, 50, and 75 milligram (mg) forms typically are used for mild or moderate pain related to:

In contrast, Advil takes on a wider set of conditions. Its over-the-counter form, with a strength of 200 mg, provides temporary relief from mild pain associated with:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Backache
  • Mild arthritis pain
  • Toothache
  • Muscle aches
  • Menstrual cramps

Prescribed forms of ibuprofen, usually sold under the name Motrin, come in 400, 600, and 800 mg doses. These are primarily prescribed in cases of moderate pain due to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other conditions.

Other distinctions between these two drugs have to do with differences in the rate and severity of side-effects. Researchers have found that Advil is more likely than Voltaren to produce upper gastrointestinal issues as well as withdrawal symptoms in arthritis patients.

Additionally, there is an increased risk of liver damage with the use of Voltaren as compared to other NSAIDs.

Being a more potent NSAID, a smaller amount of Voltaren than Advil is needed to produce comparable results. In addition, another study noted better efficacy for Voltaren in the management of pain following dental surgery.  

Is it Safe To Take Voltaren With Advil?

Especially if you’re taking NSAIDs to manage symptoms of arthritis, it’s important to understand how Advil and Voltaren impact the body. These drugs can interact with other drugs you're taking, and significantly, they also may interact with each other. Further, they’re often prescribed or taken in chronic pain cases.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if you’re taking one NSAID, you should not take any other medication for pain. This means, for instance, that those taking Voltaren should avoid supplementing with Advil. If pain or inflammation continues to be a problem, be sure to let your healthcare provider know.

NSAID Warnings

In light of both the widespread availability of NSAID drugs and their many applications, the FDA has issued some warnings about their use:

  • Risk of heart attack and stroke is elevated in those with a history of heart problems as well as long-term users of NSAIDs.
  • Suspend use surrounding coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, as this can increase complications.
  • Ulcers and bleeding can occur, especially among smokers, older people, those taking corticosteroids or anticoagulant drugs, and when accompanying alcohol use.
  • People who are pregnant and close to their due date should avoid NSAIDs.
  • People who are breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare provider about whether use is safe.
  • Allergic reactions also warrant discontinuing treatment; signs include swelling and breathing difficulties.

 

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

Serious side effects of NSAIDs, though rare, may occur due to their effects on the heart, blood circulation, liver, kidneys, brain, and intestines, among other systems. Stop using your medication and call your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Itchiness
  • Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin)
  • Stomach pain
  • Flu symptoms
  • Vomiting blood
  • Bloody or black, tar-like stool
  • Skin rash/blisters accompanied by fever
  • Swelling in the limbs
  • Unusual weight gain

In addition, call 911 and seek emergency help if you have:

  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pains
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Swelling in the face or throat

A Word From Verywell

While there may be some drawbacks and unintended effects to taking NSAIDs like Advil and Voltaren, it’s important to note that these are generally very successful in managing pain and swelling. Especially for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients, these drugs have proven time and again to be essential in helping alleviate symptoms.

There's a reason these have been consistently prescribed and made so widely available. That said, they should never be taken together, and you need to be careful about dosage.

If you’re taking these, be mindful of how you’re feeling, and if anything seems off, be sure to let your healthcare provider know. Used properly, Advil and Voltaren may prove instrumental in alleviating the suffering caused by these conditions.   

Was this page helpful?
Article 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.
  1. van Walsem A, Pandhi S, Nixon R, Guyot P, Karabis A, Moore R. Relative benefit-risk comparing diclofenac to other traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors in patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis: a network meta-analysis. Arthritis Res Ther. 2015;17(1). doi:10.1186/s13075-015-0554-0

  2. Sherve K, Gerard CJ, Neher JO, St Anna L. Cardiovascular effects of NSAIDs. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(4).

  3. MedlinePlus. Diclofenac: drug information. Updated 2020.

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Ibuprofen drug facts label. 2016.

  5. US Food and Drug Administration. Motrin® ibuprofen tablets, USP. 2007.

  6. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. Diclofenac. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Updated Dec 13, 2017.

  7. Gazal G, Al-Samadani K. Comparison of paracetamol, ibuprofen, and diclofenac potassium for pain relief following dental extractions and deep cavity preparations. Saudi Med J. 2017;38(3):284-291. doi:10.15537/smj.2017.3.16023

  8. US Food and Drug Administration. Voltaren® (diclofenac sodium enteric-coated tablets). 2006.

  9. US Food and Drug Administration. Medication guide for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Revised May 2016.