Ibuprofen is an everyday painkiller for a range of aches and pains, including back pain, period pain, toothache and symptoms of colds, flu or coronavirus (COVID-19). It also treats inflammation such as sprains and strains, and pain from arthritis.
It's available as tablets, capsules, granules and as a liquid that you swallow. It also comes as a gel, mousse and spray that you rub into your skin.
Ibuprofen is combined with other painkillers in some products. It's an ingredient in some cold and flu remedies, such as Nurofen Cold and Flu.
You can buy most types of ibuprofen from pharmacies and supermarkets. Some types are only available on prescription.
For under-17s, read our information on ibuprofen for children.
- Ibuprofen works by reducing hormones that cause pain and swelling in the body.
- It takes 20 to 30 minutes to work if you take it by mouth, and 1 to 2 days to work if you put it on your skin.
- Ibuprofen is typically used for period pain or toothache. Some people find ibuprofen better than paracetamol for back pain.
- Always take ibuprofen tablets, capsules, granules and liquid with food or a drink of milk to reduce the chance of an upset stomach. Do not take it on an empty stomach.
- If you're taking tablets, capsules, granules or liquid, take the lowest dose to control your pain for the shortest possible time. Do not take it for more than 10 days (or 3 days if you're under 18) unless you've spoken to your doctor. Do not use the gel, mousse or spray for more than 2 weeks without talking to your doctor.