How Long Does Ibuprofen Last?
Medically reviewed by Erika Prouty, PharmD
Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) gets absorbed quickly and begins working within about 30 minutes. You may start feeling ibuprofen's full effectiveness within 1 to 2 hours.
Ibuprofen's effects generally last for six to eight hours. However, its onset of action and how long it lasts can vary from person to person.
This article will cover ibuprofen, what it treats, its precautions, and alternative approaches.
What Is Ibuprofen and What Does It Treat?
Ibuprofen (generic for Advil or Motrin) is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to control or reduce swelling, pain, and fever in children and adults.
It is available over-the-counter (OTC) as a liquid suspension and a 200 milligram (mg) tablet. Some higher strengths are only available with a prescription.
Note: Do not take more than 3,200 milligrams of ibuprofen per day.
What Foods Affect How Ibuprofen Works?
Typically, taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen with food or milk is best to avoid stomach upset and ulcers while on this drug.
However, food or milk may delay the absorption or reduce the onset of action of ibuprofen.
Food does not necessarily make ibuprofen less effective in controlling pain and fever.
Who Should Avoid Using Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen should be avoided in specific populations like in people who:
Are allergic to ibuprofen or any part of its ingredient
Have asthma, urticaria, or allergy to aspirin or other NSAIDs
Are about to have coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery
It is also best to avoid ibuprofen with the following:
High blood pressure
Heart failure and edema
What Are the Alternatives?
Fortunately, alternatives to ibuprofen may be available. These include the following:
Several body-based techniques exist that can assist in pain management. These include acupuncture, the use of heat and ice, and physiotherapy.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is effective at treating many types of pain, including back and chronic pain.
Heat/Ice Compression: Ibuprofen can be substituted with ice and heat compression. However, heat and ice compression are not suitable for all pain and injuries. Always consult your healthcare provider on the best treatment.
Heat compression can relieve chronic joint or muscle pain, including arthritis.
It increases blood flow in the affected area, relaxing muscles and easing stiffness.
How to apply a hot compress: Apply a warm towel or a hot water bottle to the affected area. Repeat this process several times daily for 20 minutes until relief is achieved.
Ice compression is helpful for acute injuries and swelling, including sprains and strains.
It reduces swelling by narrowing the blood vessels and decreasing the blood flow in affected areas.
It may also temporarily lessen pain by numbing the affected areas.
How to apply a cold compress: Wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply it to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat this treatment several times a day.
Physiotherapy uses physical techniques and exercises that promote healing, decrease pain, increase movement, and improve function.
Physiotherapy may include muscle-strengthening exercises, massage, joint movement, or manipulation.
Physiotherapy can be an adjunct or alternative to traditional drug treatment for injuries and pain management.
It can take some time before the benefits of physiotherapy become noticeable.
However, it can be a great alternative to ibuprofen for specific injuries and discomfort.
Several OTC medications exist as alternatives to ibuprofen. They include oral (by mouth) and topical (on the skin) products.
Aleve (naproxen) is another OTC pain reliever and fever reducer often used as an alternative to ibuprofen.
Like its more well-known cousin, ibuprofen, Aleve blocks prostaglandin production to relieve inflammation and pain.
You should avoid Aleve if you're also taking ibuprofen.
Capsaicin is an organic compound in chili peppers. It can reduce Substance P (an essential neurotransmitter responsible for pain perception) and relieve pain.
Capsaicin may help treat pain and swelling caused by osteoarthritis. It's applied topically (on the skin) as creams and patches.
Apply capsaicin cream with caution. It can cause skin irritation, burning, and itching when used on the skin. Avoid sensitive areas such as eyes and mucous surfaces.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an effective pain reliever and fever reducer but does not possess ibuprofen's anti-inflammatory effects.
Tylenol is used for mild to moderate pain like headaches and fever control.
Tylenol is less effective than ibuprofen in relieving joint or swelling-related pain.
Voltaren gel contains diclofenac, an NSAID similar to ibuprofen.
Voltaren gel acts directly on the skin to relieve pain associated with arthritis, sprains, strains, and other injuries.
Since this gel is a topical drug, it may cause less stomach upset than oral NSAIDs like ibuprofen.
Pain relieving supplements include but aren't limited to, glucosamine and turmeric.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that can help reduce joint pain and swelling.
Glucosamine supplements are available alone or combined with other products, such as chondroitin, to offer additional support.
It is believed that glucosamine may help relieve the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and improve joint movement and flexibility over time.
More research is needed to understand glucosamine's efficacy fully.
Turmeric is a popular anti-inflammatory spice that may relieve pain instead of ibuprofen.
Turmeric contains curcumin as its active ingredient, which may help to reduce swelling and pain.
Turmeric's efficacy in relieving the pain and inflammation caused by conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis pain may be supported by some research.
However, further studies are needed to determine turmeric's safety and effectiveness.
Ibuprofen is an NSAID drug used to treat pain and fever. It begins to work within 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion. It lasts for six to eight hours.
Like all other medications, ibuprofen can cause side effects. Some of those side effects include bleeding and stomach upset.
Taking large doses of this medication or taking it for long periods can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Taking large doses of this medicine or for extended periods should only be done under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
Alternatives like acupuncture, heat or ice compression, supplements, and other OTC medicines are available.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does ibuprofen last?
Ibuprofen can last for up to six hours. However, this may vary from person to person. Taking higher doses or long-acting forms may increase how long ibuprofen lasts.
How long does 600 milligrams of ibuprofen last?
The effects of 600 milligrams of ibuprofen may last between four to six hours. This can differ depending on age, weight, metabolism, and other medical conditions. Follow the instructions on the packaging or those given by your healthcare provider.
How long does ibuprofen last after the expiration date?
Ibuprofen can become ineffective or even harmful after the expiration date. The expiration date guarantees the medication will remain safe and effective if stored properly. After this date, it may lose its potency or safety.