FDA Warnings

This drug has black boxed warnings. These are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Black boxed warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

  • Cardiovascular thrombotic events: Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can increase the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening cardiovascular thrombotic events, such as myocardial infarction and stroke. The risk may start early in treatment and may increase the longer a person uses them.
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery: People should not use IBU tablets around the time of CABG surgery.
  • Gastrointestinal risk: Using NSAIDs can increase the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal complications, including bleeding, ulceration, and perforation of the stomach or intestines. Older people have a higher risk. These complications can occur without warning and at any time during use.

Ibuprofen is a type of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that may help relieve headaches associated with migraine. Taking 400 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen every 6–8 hours may relieve mild to moderate pain.

Migraine is a condition that can cause a person to experience severe headaches. Therapies for migraine include treatment to prevent a migraine attack and acute therapy to reduce the impact of the headache.

This article examines whether ibuprofen is an effective treatment option for migraine.

A person's face covered in shadows.Share on Pinterest
Bernine/Getty Images

A 2020 comprehensive review states that over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen are an effective treatment option for mild to moderate migraine episodes. It is also a suitable treatment option for children and adolescents with migraine.

A 2019 study found that ibuprofen can be as effective as other migraine medications, such as triptans. They state that a dose of 400 milligrams (mg) was more effective than 50 mg of sumatriptan. However, they also noted that 400 mg of ibuprofen was less effective than 10 mg of rizatriptan.

OTC medications are also generally cheaper than prescription medications and typically have fewer and less severe side effects.

A 2018 study suggested that 400 mg is a typical dose of ibuprofen. There does not appear to be any evidence that higher doses are more effective.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) states that it is most effective when a person takes it at the first sign of a migraine episode.

The American Headache Society notes that a person can take ibuprofen every 6–12 hours. They should avoid taking it for more than 12–15 days per month. Dosing recommendations are to limit a person’s use to avoid medication overuse, which can lead to headaches.

Learn more about ibuprofen.

Can people take too much ibuprofen?

It is possible for a person to take too much ibuprofen. The majority of overdose cases are not life threatening, with less than 1% of these being fatal. However, some people may experience severe complications.

Overdose symptoms usually occur within 4 hours and can affect the gastrointestinal system, the kidneys, and the central nervous system.

Learn more about how much ibuprofen is too much.

A person can safely take ibuprofen alongside other medications, such as acetaminophen or codeine. However, a person should avoid taking ibuprofen with similar medications, such as aspirin or naproxen.

It is also possible to take ibuprofen alongside triptans. A 2022 article notes that combining triptans and NSAIDs can be more effective than using each medication alone.

Although most research examines the combined use of sumatriptan and naproxen — another type of NSAID — the authors of a 2019 article suggest that people can combine the triptan with a rapid-acting NSAID. Ibuprofen is a rapid-acting NSAID.

If people are unsure which medications are safe to take alongside ibuprofen, they should speak with a doctor.

The most common side effects include:

Other side effects include:

According to DailyMed, people should not take NSAIDs if they have had any of the following after previously taking aspirin or another NSAID:

People should speak with a doctor before taking ibuprofen if they have:

Taking NSAIDs close to conception may lead to an increased risk of pregnancy loss. Therefore, anyone who is planning on getting pregnant, or is pregnant, should also speak with a doctor before taking ibuprofen.

People should avoid taking ibuprofen during pregnancy, particularly if they are over 30 weeks pregnant.

Ibuprofen can affect the fetus’ kidneys and circulation. It may also lead to an early delivery and pregnancy loss.

The FDA has issued a warning that taking NSAIDs from 20 weeks has associations with low amniotic fluid around the fetus.

Nonpharmaceutical methods of intervention for migraine in pregnancy include:

  • maintaining hydration
  • getting enough sleep
  • finding ways of relaxing

If a person is experiencing headaches during pregnancy, they should consult a doctor to ensure that there is no underlying condition.

Learn more about migraine during pregnancy.

Although ibuprofen may not be safe to take during pregnancy, a person can take it while nursing. Only small amounts enter the breast milk and is unlikely to cause any side effects in the baby.

Alternative medications to treat migraine include:

Migraine is a moderate or severe headache that usually affects one side of the head. A person may also experience nausea, and sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells.

There are different types of migraine, including:

Learn more about migraine.

Ibuprofen is an effective treatment option for migraine headaches. To treat a migraine headache, a person can take 400 mg of ibuprofen every 6–8 hours.

A person can safely take ibuprofen with paracetamol and other types of migraine medications, such as triptans. However, they should avoid taking it alongside other similar medications, such as aspirin or other NSAIDs.

If people are unsure whether they can take ibuprofen alongside other medication or if they are planning to conceive or are pregnant, they should consult a doctor.