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About ibuprofen for adults

Ibuprofen is an everyday painkiller for a range of aches and pains, including back pain, period pain and toothache. 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.

NHS coronavirus (COVID-19) advice

The Commission on Human Medicines has confirmed that there is no clear evidence that using ibuprofen to treat symptoms such as a high temperature can make COVID-19 worse.

You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat the symptoms of COVID-19. We recommend that you try paracetamol first, as it has fewer side effects than ibuprofen and is the safer choice for most people.

Always follow the instructions that come with your medicine.

Updated: 16 April 2020

Key facts

  • 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.

Page last reviewed: 18 November 2021
Next review due: 18 November 2024