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Naproxen: Powerful Painkiller, Or Really Just Same As Ibuprofen?

by Dr Don Grant (MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip Orth Med)

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

There are lots of painkillers on the market right now, and it can be hard to find the best pain relief medicine for your condition. Especially if you have a long-term illness or more serious pain on a regular basis, getting the right pain relief will be essential for improving your quality of life.

Naproxen is a popular pain medication and NSAID, commonly used for effective pain relief, whereas Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter pain remedy. 

But how are Naproxen and Ibuprofen different? And is Naproxen better than Ibuprofen? Read on to find out.


What is Naproxen?

Naproxen is a prescription-only medicine used to ease pain and inflammation in muscles and joints. It is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). 

It works by stopping your body from releasing prostaglandins, a chemical that worsens inflammation and can cause pain and fever.

Naproxen comes in regular tablets and gastro-resistant tablets, and can be prescribed by your doctor or bought in small quantities at a lower strength from a pharmacy.


What is Naproxen used for?

Naproxen is used to relieve a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Back pain
  • Period pain and menstrual cramps
  • Toothaches
  • Headaches
  • Tendonitis
  • Muscle aches
  • Sports injuries

Naproxen is also used to relieve pain, swelling and stiffness associated with more serious conditions, such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Bursitis


What are the side effects of Naproxen?

As with all medicines, Naproxen can cause side effects for some people. Naproxen side effects include, but are not limited to, the following:

Common side effects

These affect more than 1 in 100 people, and common Naproxen side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Drowsiness and tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Rashes

Uncommon side effects

These affect more than 1 in 1000 people, and uncommon Naproxen side effects include:

  • Unusual dreams
  • Depression
  • Irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Skin sensitivity to light
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble sleeping

Rare side effects

These affect more than 1 in 1000 people, and rare Naproxen side effects include:

  • Hearing problems
  • Loss of hair
  • Weakness and muscle pain
  • Fever and swelling
  • Ulcers in and around the mouth
  • Existing asthma getting worse


Is Naproxen better than Ibuprofen?

Naproxen and Ibuprofen are similar. They tend to have the same pain-killing and anti-inflammatory effects. However, pain relief from Naproxen lasts for 8-12 hours, whereas pain relief from Ibuprofen lasts for 4-6 hours.

This means that you don’t have to take as much Naproxen to ease your symptoms and find pain relief — making Naproxen good for relieving pain from chronic conditions.

Naproxen might also actually be better for you than Ibuprofen, as it carries a lower risk of heart problems.

Both Naproxen and Ibuprofen carry risks of stomach issues so it is advisable to take them with or after food, and if you are using them for periods exceeding two weeks also use medicine for stomach protection, such as Omeprazole.


Can Naproxen and Ibuprofen be taken together?

Doubling-up on painkillers is risky, and should never be done without the advice of a doctor. 

However, you can take Naproxen eight hours after Ibuprofen, or you can take Ibuprofen 12 hours after taking Naproxen.

If you have accidentally taken Naproxen and Ibuprofen together, consult your doctor immediately.

Although you cannot take them together, you can take Paracetamol with Naproxen or Ibuprofen.


There’s a variety of pain relief medications available for you to choose from, whether you’re experiencing back pain, period pain, or arthritis. Naproxen can provide you with fast and effective pain relief, so speak to our friendly Online Doctor today to find the best medicine for you.

Authored By:

A photo of Dr Donald Grant

Dr Donald Grant

MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.med

Published on: 11-06-2018

Last modified on: 11-06-2018

Dr Don Grant is a GP with over 30 years experience and is the Clinical Advisor at The Independent Pharmacy

Reviewed By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Reviewed on: 11-06-2020

Next review date: 11-06-2022

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

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