Over the Counter Anti-Inflammatories: Ibuprofen versus Naproxen

Two of the most common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve). What do these drugs do, and how do they help with pain? Read on to learn more.

How NSAIDs Work

NSAIDs prevent your body from making chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are made in response to injury. These chemicals can contribute to inflammation, pain, warmth (fever), and swelling. NSAIDs work to reduce or prevent this inflammatory response and help alleviate pain that might be acute (injury, recent surgery) or chronic (arthritis, bursitis, degenerative changes).

Indications and Dosage

Although Ibuprofen and Naproxen are very similar, they are not exactly the same. Ibuprofen tends to be more short acting while Naproxen tends to be more long acting. These differences make Ibuprofen more useful for short term conditions and Naproxen a better option for chronic conditions. Other differences between these two medications include:

Recommended ages:

    • Ibuprofen – any age including children

    • Naproxen – 12 years and older


  • Ibuprofen – 200 to 400mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed

  • Naproxen – 220 mg every 8 to 12 hours as needed

Side Effects

All medications come with the risk of unwanted side effects. Both Ibuprofen and Naproxen can cause the following:

  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn/indigestion
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Risk of heart, blood pressure, and stroke issues tends to be greater with the use of Naproxen, as this drug tends to be used for longer periods of time.
  • Both Ibuprofen and Naproxen can interact with other drugs such as blood pressure medications, aspirin, diuretics, blood thinners, and certain drugs related to cancer treatment.

Like any medication, do not take more than the recommended dosage unless directed by your physician.  These medications, in conjunction with physical therapy, may help you to overcome a recent injury or manage an ongoing condition. Be sure to consult your physician or pharmacist before taking any new medication.