Avoid Taking Ibuprofen With This Common Medication At All Costs

Ibuprofen works wonders for your headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, and menstrual cramps, so it's probably no surprise that it's the second most common over-the-counter (OTC) drug behind paracetamol (Tylenol), according to a 2023 article in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. You might get a prescription for ibuprofen if you have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis to reduce the pain and swelling from these conditions. Ibuprofen might also be used for psoriatic arthritis, arthritis of the spine, and gouty arthritis.

Like other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ibuprofen works by blocking an enzyme that makes prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation. Although taking ibuprofen for an occasional headache or muscle ache is generally safe, taking it for a long time puts you at a higher risk for bleeding in your esophagus, stomach, or intestine. NSAIDs like ibuprofen can make it harder for your blood to form clots. Therefore, if you're already taking blood thinners, you should avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen because they increase your risk of excess bleeding.

Blood thinners and ibuprofen don't mix

People might take blood thinners like warfarin or clopidogrel to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks by preventing blood clots. Blood thinners like anticoagulants hold back the production of blood clots, and antiplatelets block platelets from forming blood clots. Taking blood thinners already presents the risk of bleeding, so you'll need to stay in touch with your doctor to make sure your blood clots somewhat. In other words, you'll need to take enough of your blood thinner to keep you safe from heart attacks or stroke, but taking too much can cause excess bleeding.

Even though ibuprofen isn't technically a blood thinner, both medications have the side effect of bleeding. Although your pharmacist will warn you if you're taking blood thinners with a prescription NSAID, ibuprofen is available as an OTC that might be missed by your pharmacist. Bleeding isn't the only side effect of taking ibuprofen and blood thinners together. Combining these two medications puts you at risk for heart attacks, even if you take ibuprofen for the short term.

Other risks for ibuprofen

Like any drug, ibuprofen comes with side effects. Even if you take ibuprofen for a headache, you could still develop a headache. You might experience dizziness or drowsiness while taking ibuprofen. Sometimes ibuprofen can cause tingling in your limbs or ringing in your ears. You could also have gastrointestinal side effects from taking ibuprofen, such as abdominal pain, heartburn, or diarrhea. You'll increase your risk of these side effects if you take more than the recommended dose. You'll also want to avoid drinking alcohol while taking ibuprofen.

You should avoid taking ibuprofen for more than 10 days unless your doctor prescribes it (per the National Health Service). Even if you aren't taking blood thinners, ibuprofen alone can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke if you take it for a long time or take a high dose. Older adults who take blood thinners might choose ibuprofen for their arthritis pain, but your doctor should be aware of any OTC medication you're taking to prevent complications. Rather than using NSAIDs like ibuprofen, physical therapy might be a healthier option to relieve your pain. Tylenol could help with the pain, but too much acetaminophen could stress your liver (per Harvard Medical School).