The Independent Pharmacy

Naproxen vs Ibuprofen: how do the two painkillers compare?

Donald Grant
Dr Donald GrantMB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.medGP & Clinical Advisor

Reviewed on 10 Jun 2022

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. In particular, 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.

If you’re choosing between anti-inflammatory pain relief such as Naproxen vs Ibuprofen, it can be hard to decide. These are two of the most popular types of pain relief tablets. Both are commonly used for effective pain relief; Naproxen is a popular pain medication and NSAID, (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), whereas Ibuprofen is a common over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain remedy.

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

What is Naproxen?

Naproxen is a prescription-only medicine used to ease pain and inflammation in muscles and joints. It is a non-steroidal 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 can be used to treat a number of different conditions or causes of pain or inflammation, which we will go into more detail about below.

Naproxen comes in the form of regular tablets and gastro-resistant tablets (tablets that have an extra protective coating to reduce the chance of gastrointestinal adverse side effects).


This pain relief can be prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist, or bought in small quantities at a lower strength from a pharmacy. Here at The Independent Pharmacy, we offer Naproxen 250mg and Naproxen 500mg as gastro-resistant tablets, for the effective relief of pain and inflammation.

Buy Here - Naproxen Gastro-Resistant Tablets (250mg & 500mg)
Buy Here - Naproxen Gastro-Resistant Tablets (250mg & 500mg)
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What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkiller. It is also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Ibuprofen tablets can be taken to relieve mild to moderate pain, reduce inflammation and swelling, and reduce fever by lowering high temperatures.

Ibuprofen can be bought over the counter, which means you don’t need to get a prescription from your doctor or pharmacist to buy it. Ibuprofen can be found in most supermarkets and pharmacies.

You can buy Ibuprofen 400mg tablets here at The Independent Pharmacy without a prescription.

Buy Ibuprofen 400 mg Tablets Here
Buy Ibuprofen 400 mg Tablets Here
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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 (especially joint, bone and muscle disorders), such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Bursitis

Naproxen is usually only for use by adults over 18. It can only be taken by children when it is prescribed for them.

What is Ibuprofen used for?

Ibuprofen is an everyday pain reliever that can be used for a variety of aches and pains, including:

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Period pain and menstrual cramps
  • Toothaches
  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Muscle aches
  • Sports injuries
  • Pain from arthritis

This list is not exhaustive. Ibuprofen can be used to help with lots of different problems and conditions which cause pain and inflammation.

Ibuprofen can also be used by children as well as adults. The appropriate dosage for your child will depend on their age and size, so it is important to read the label and use it as instructed (and if in doubt, speak to your GP). For young children, Ibuprofen can be given as a liquid syrup which makes it easier to swallow.

Naproxen vs Ibuprofen: which is best?

If you’re trying to decide between different painkillers — such as Naproxen vs Ibuprofen — it can be difficult to decide which is the most suitable option for you.

There isn't a right or wrong answer when it comes to pain relief — it’s about finding what works best for you and your body. This can depend on a few factors, such as your reason for use (the disorder, condition or type of pain you are using this pain relief to treat), as well as how your body reacts to the medicine (such as any side effects), and any other underlying health conditions or medicines you might be taking.

What works well for some users may not work as well for others. Often, it is a case of trying out a few different types of painkillers to see how you get on.

However, it is a good idea to get a quick overview of each painkiller so that you can compare the two. Below you can find a Naproxen vs Ibuprofen comparison table which can tell you more.

Naproxen vs Ibuprofen: a comparison

Naproxen

Ibuprofen

Type of medicine

NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) painkiller

NSAID painkiller

Conditions treated

Headaches

Back pain

Period pain and menstrual cramps

Toothaches

Strains

Sprains

Muscle aches

Sports injuries

Pain from arthritis

Tendonitis

Rheumatoid arthritis

Osteoarthritis

Gout

Bursitis

Headaches

Back pain

Period pain and menstrual cramps

Toothaches

Strains

Sprains

Muscle aches

Sports injuries

Pain from arthritis

Active ingredient(s)

Naproxen

Ibuprofen

Dose

Typically Naproxen 250mg or 500mg per tablet or dose (sometimes more)

Typically Ibuprofen 200mg or 400mg (sometimes more, but only under supervision of a doctor)

Formulation

Oral tablets

Oral tablets (sometimes liquid syrup or dissolvable capsules or powder)

Side effects

Gastric side effects including upset stomach, heartburn, stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhoea. Headaches, confusion, ringing in the ears (tinnitus),

drowsiness and tiredness, dizziness, changes in vision, rashes

Headaches, feeling sick or vomiting, excessive wind, indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea, skin rashes and itching (hives)

Available over the counter?

No

Yes

Available from The Independent Pharmacy?

Yes

Yes


The answers above should give you a clearer overview of each painkiller and the differences between Naproxen and Ibuprofen. We’ll go into these in a little more detail below.

The main difference between Naproxen vs Ibuprofen

You can probably see from the Naproxen vs Ibuprofen comparison table above that these anti-inflammatory painkillers have both similarities and differences.

Both are used for similar health problems and conditions, and both have a similar method of action, whether it is over-the-counter medicine Ibuprofen or prescription-only Naproxen. They both work by blocking the chemicals in the body that cause pain and inflammation at the site of injury.

However, Naproxen is a stronger anti-inflammatory than Ibuprofen (which is why you need a prescription for it). Generally, Naproxen is used for moderate pain relief and inflammation, or where Ibuprofen has been ineffective.

While this means that Naproxen is more effective and efficient at tackling pain and inflammation, it does also mean that adverse side effects are more likely to occur when using this medication.

Naproxen and Ibuprofen side effects

In this section, we will look at both Naproxen and Ibuprofen side effects and compare the two.

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 10 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 100 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 1,000 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

The possible side effects of Naproxen vary from mild to severe. If you are concerned at all, experience any painful or worrying side effects, or notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

You can find out more about Naproxen side effects here in our guide.

What are the side effects of Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen side effects can happen, but they are less common than Naproxen side effects for most people. Ibuprofen side effects include, but are not limited to, the following:

Uncommon side effects

These affect up to 1 in 100 people. Common Ibuprofen side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pains
  • Skin rashes and itching (hives)

Rare side effects

These affect up to 1 in 1,000 people. Rare Ibuprofen side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive wind
  • Vomiting

As you can see, most Ibuprofen side effects are mild and predominantly gastric. These can generally be avoided by taking the tablets with a meal.

As with Naproxen, If you are worried about side effects, experience any painful or severe adverse effects, or notice other effects not listed above, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Naproxen vs Ibuprofen: how long does each painkiller take to work?

If you’re in pain, you’ll want the pain relief you choose to kick in quickly and help you to feel better. You can find the answers below:

How long does Naproxen take to kick in?

Typically, it takes around one hour to feel the effects of Naproxen kick in after taking a tablet.

However, it may take up to two hours to feel the full effects of Naproxen. For the majority of users though, it is much faster than this.

How long does Ibuprofen take to work?

Generally speaking, you should start to feel better 20 to 30 minutes after taking Ibuprofen.

If you are taking Ibuprofen to treat some types of long-term pain, it may take up to three weeks of regular use for this pain relief to work properly.

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.

Summary

In summary, both Naproxen and Ibuprofen are effective pain relief and anti-inflammatory options. Both work in similar ways to provide fast-acting relief from pain and inflammation caused by a number of different conditions, injuries or health problems.

Ibuprofen is a popular over-the-counter painkiller that can help with lots of different things. You can buy Ibuprofen here from The Independent Pharmacy.

If you find that Ibuprofen isn’t proving to effectively treat your pain or inflammation, you can try Naproxen. Naproxen can provide you with fast and effective pain relief. You can buy Naproxen tablets from The Independent Pharmacy on the treatment page. You simply need to complete the online consultation form and we will be able to process your order ready for delivery.

You can also browse the pain relief section of our site, where you can find a variety of pain relief medications available for you to choose from, whether you’re experiencing back pain, period pain, or arthritis.

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