Can You Take Ibuprofen for Migraine?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

When migraine strikes, you want fast relief. Maybe you’ve tried an over- the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. But with so many OTC choices, you might be wondering which one works.

Migraine is more than a tough headache and involves multiple symptoms including:

  • severe headache
  • nausea
  • sensory disturbances (light and sound sensitivity)
  • other symptoms
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There are many treatment options available for migraine. One convenient option is ibuprofen. And a 2013 research review showed that it’s a good first choice to manage acute migraine.

To learn more, take a closer look at the effectiveness of ibuprofen for migraine pain.

Is ibuprofen an effective migraine treatment?

Yes, a 2015 research review showed that it is effective for relieving mild to moderate migraine pain. The American Headache Society (AHS) recommends NSAID’s like ibuprofen as effective first-line treatment for migraine in adults.

A 2019 research review showed that ibuprofen is also recommended by AHS for migraine in children and adolescents. Ask your child’s doctor for more information about migraine treatment in children.

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Ibuprofen belongs to a group of medications called nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s).

There is still a lot to learn about what causes a migraine attack. But researchers say that during a migraine attack, prostaglandins cause inflammation of blood vessels in your brain which triggers pain. Ibuprofen may help relieve pain by blocking the effects of prostaglandin.

Ibuprofen is used for:

  • reduction of fever
  • inflammation
  • pain relief

What’s the average dose of ibuprofen for migraine?

The dose of ibuprofen you take will depend on several factors and may be different for different people. Factors that will affect your recommended dose of ibuprofen include:

    age
  • weight (children)
  • any health conditions you may have (kidney or stomach conditions)
  • severity of migraine
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A 2001 study showed that an ibuprofen dose of 200 milligrams or 400 milligrams is effective for migraine pain relief.

The best dose for you depends on the severity of your symptoms and other factors. Your doctor can tell you what dose is best for you.

A 2013 research review showed that the 400-milligram dose is better for 2-hour migraine relief in adults.

Be sure to talk with your child’s doctor about migraine symptoms and ibuprofen dosage for your child.

What are the side effects of taking ibuprofen?

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Ibuprofen does have some side effects. For most people these are mild and are not bothersome.

However, some people may experience more serious reactions. See the ibuprofen risk section below for more information on the significant risks of ibuprofen.

Before taking ibuprofen talk with your doctor about:

  • your migraine symptoms
  • frequency of migraine attacks
  • other medications you take

They can tell you how to manage any side effects and about drug interactions.

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Taking ibuprofen with food or milk can help with stomach-related side effects.

Some side effects of ibuprofen may include:

  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • bloating
  • gas
  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting

This is not a full list of side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information on all the side effects of ibuprofen.

What are the risks of taking ibuprofen?

If you have certain health conditions, ibuprofen may not be safe for you to take. These risks include:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart attack, stroke, heart failure
  • kidney disease
  • liver cirrhosis
  • asthma
  • heartburn
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If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor if ibuprofen is safe for you to take.

You may have a higher risk of stomach bleeding if you:

  • are 60 years old or older
  • have a history of ulcer (bloody dark stools, nausea, loss of appetite)
  • take blood thinners
  • take other NSAID’s,
  • drink more than 3 alcoholic drinks daily
  • take ibuprofen longer than recommended (ask your doctor)

Don’t take ibuprofen if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to this type of medication (NSAID’s).

Taking ibuprofen too often for migraine may lead to overuse rebound headaches. According to Harvard Health Publishing, taking ibuprofen or other OTC pain medication for more than 15 days per month for migraine can increase your risk for rebound headache.

Can you overdose on ibuprofen?

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Yes, you can overdose on ibuprofen. Taking too much ibuprofen can cause dangerous side effects and, in some cases, may be life threatening.

Always take the exact dose of ibuprofen your doctor or pharmacist recommends. Do not take more than 1200 milligrams of ibuprofen in 24 hours unless your doctor recommends otherwise.

Some symptoms of an overdose include:

  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • coma
  • trouble breathing (blue lips, nose, mouth)
  • low blood pressure
  • little to no urine production
  • seizures

If you think you’ve taken too much ibuprofen, call your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222. But if you feel you’re experiencing a medical emergency call 911 or go to an emergency medical center right away.

What other drugs may interact with ibuprofen?

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Ibuprofen can interact with other medications you take. Be sure to let your doctor and pharmacist know about all your medications including OTC products.

Some interactions include:

  • Alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol with ibuprofen may increase stomach- related side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if alcohol is safe with ibuprofen.
  • Aspirin. Taking aspirin with ibuprofen can increase the risk of serious side effects including stomach-related side effects.
  • NSAID’s. Taking more than one NSAID at a time can increase the risk of side effects.
  • Diuretics. Also sometimes called water pills, diuretics can increase the risk of kidney conditions.
  • Lithium. Taking lithium with ibuprofen can cause lithium to build up in your body and increase the risk of side effects.
  • Methotrexate. Taking methotrexate with ibuprofen can cause methotrexate levels to build up and increase serious side effects.
  • Blood thinners. Taking blood thinners like (warfarin) with ibuprofen may increase your bleeding risk.

This is not a full list of interactions. Talk with your doctor about the safety of using ibuprofen with these drugs.

Are there other medications to treat migraine?

There are several types of medication options for migraine to both prevent and treat the condition. Treatment may also involve combining different options to maximize benefits. There are many medications to treat migraine.

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Your doctor will guide you on which type of medication may work for you based on:

  • how often you experience migraine
  • your past history with migraine treatment (what has or hasn’t worked)
  • your age
  • your health conditions

Ask your doctor about how ibuprofen compares with other treatment options for your migraine symptoms.

What is migraine?

Migraine is a neurological condition that involves multiple triggers and reactions. While scientists are still studying the cause of migraine, they believe genetic and environmental factors are involved.

In addition, changes in brain chemicals may also play a role in migraine attacks, including:

  • serotonin
  • hormonal changes
  • foods
  • scents
  • sounds
  • sleep habits
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There are different types of migraine, and treatment can depend on the attacks’:

    type
  • severity
  • frequency

Some types include:

  • with aura (headache, visual and sensory problems, tingling, trouble speaking, dizziness, flashes of light, reduced consciousness)
  • without aura (throbbing pain, light and sound sensitivity, nausea/vomiting)
  • chronic migraine (maybe combined with tension headache)
  • status migrainosus
  • menstrual migraine
  • retinal migraine

Migraine can cause various symptoms including:

  • severe headache (usually on one side of your head)
  • aura (problems with speech, vision, movement)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • numbness, tingling

Talk with your doctor about:

  • triggers
  • frequency of migraine episodes
  • symptoms and signs
  • prevention and treatment options
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Recognizing signs and symptoms of an oncoming migraine and treating early is the best way to avoid a prolonged migraine attack.

The takeaway

Migraine can be debilitating and interrupt your daily activities so it’s important to have fast, convenient treatment options on hand.

Ibuprofen is available OTC in different dosage forms for ease-of-use. It offers fast pain relief that has proven to work for many people with migraine.

Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of ibuprofen for your migraine symptoms.

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