What Is the Difference Between Naproxen vs. Ibuprofen?


Bottle of generic Ibuprofen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It used to be that all you had to do was take an aspirin with water every morning when you woke up. Nowadays however, there’s no shortage of pain relievers available over the counter at your pharmacy. With so many different choices and many side effects unknown, it’s a real headache (no pun intended) to discover which pain medication is right for you.

Over the counter pain medication usually falls under the class of medications known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), in laymen’s terms, these are medications that target areas in your body that you feel pain due to tissue inflammation.

Two of the most common over the counter NSAIDs are Ibuprofen (Advil, Brufen, or Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve). Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the two:

Ibuprofen vs. NaproxenTo begin, both ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAIDs, and they will both offer some relief to whatever is causing you pain. One difference is mainly within the speed in which they act. Ibuprofen is a fast acting drug, and will bring you relief much quicker than naproxen will. Ibuprofen also works much better at relieving fevers, headaches and migraines than naproxen.

Generally, ibuprofen is something you would take to deal with a headache at work, before going out, or something for quick pain relief. However studies have shown ibuprofen can have adverse effects for people who have a history of heart and liver disease.

Naproxen is a drug that works slower than ibuprofen, but in the end will offer longer-term relief compared to the short-term benefit of ibuprofen. Furthermore, it’s much better at targeting muscle tissue inflammations, pain that could be caused by a sprain, arthritis, or strained muscles. Naproxen is therefore best used after a long workout at the gym, a hike, or for sore muscles before bed for best effect. Naproxen goes easiest on your heart, so if you have a history of heart attacks it is better to use than ibuprofen.

Side Effects and Issues with NSAIDs

NSAID label

NSAID classification on label (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, no medication is a miracle cure all. While ibuprofen and naproxen are two of the most commonly available NSAIDs available and hold a low rate of direct causes of death and hospitalization, there are still risks and issues with using them. Studies show that all NSAID’s however (even naproxen) carry some risk of increasing risk of heart attacks. NSAID’s have been documented in causing internal intestinal bleeding in some people.

Both ibuprofen and naproxen can cause nausea, heartburn and (ironically) headaches. For people who must be careful with their blood pressure, NSAID’s can cause increases in blood pressure, especially if you are taking medication to deal with it. Of course, you should never take ibuprofen or naproxen while under the influence of alcohol.

Note: The information above is NOT medical advice and should not be relied upon to make medical decisions. Contact your doctor or pharmacist before making any medical decisions.


Looking for more facts about NSAIDS?

Is Tylenol an NSAID?

About 2000 years ago, humans began using extract from willow bark as a treatment for pain and fever. Although they did not know it, they started humanity’s long relationship with NSAIDs, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.


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  1. Blondsluck


    July 15, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    after having knee surgery in 2011 my surgeon suggested a combination of 2 ibuprofen with 1 acetaminophen tab for pain, and it was good advice. first take whatever you decide to take BEFORE the pain gets to be too much; you have to manage the pain. everyone has different pain limits but unless contraindicated you should be taking otc pain relief every 4-5 hrs.

  2. ANON


    June 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    THIS ARTICLE IS COMPLETELY FALSE. You should NOT take Naproxen if you have cardiovascular issues; you should take ibuprofin for this. Do your own research online.

    Shame on the author for putting out blatantly false medical information.

    • hal


      August 26, 2015 at 4:06 am

      If you want to make a serious point/comment… then please spell Ibuprofen correcrley (joke)!

  3. lizzy


    May 28, 2015 at 7:04 am

    I agree very much on this and ist very help over the years i have had problems with Aspirin and ibuprofen and i was on pecamed then my Dr. recommened Naproxen and it really works for me.

  4. Mike Russo

    Mike Russo

    April 27, 2015 at 9:09 am

    How about Crack? Crack will kill my pain right?

  5. sue


    April 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    the best is to ask your pharmacist. He knows medicine.

  6. Dave Cawdell

    Dave Cawdell

    February 20, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Great information.

    (52yo) I have arthritis the length of my spine, as well as muscle damage causing instability in my spine, all topped off with obesity (former battered, bruised & beaten rugger player).

    Ibuprofen was OK for about 20 years. But as the condition worsened, I swapped to Naproxen for night time use, for the last 10 years. I do wonder what additional concerns there are taking Aleve-PM with the added sleep aid. But losing 3 hours sleep every night is no fun at all.



    December 31, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Thank you very much..

    • Betty


      January 7, 2015 at 3:12 am

      I also have chronic pain due to arthritis. I am thankful for over-the-counter meds such as naproxen and ibuprofen. We all know that it is possible to die of a drug over-dose from illicit drugs, however over-the-counter medications can also cause death if taken incorrectly. Your liver is one major concern, especially if you consume alchohol. Do not use them carelessly and if in doubt always consult your pharmacist or physician.

  8. Doris


    December 22, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Dr. Matt can’t spell Tylenol, but he can spell Morphine and Methadone, make me wonder why Hmmm….

  9. Jess


    December 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Guess matt knows everything ( except how to use punctuation marks ) . Something they dont teach in meds school I guess .

    As for the information about ibuprofen , vs naproxen . Very informative , and exactly accurate . Great job .

    Anyone suffering from pain , I feel for you , i’ve had severe pain for years .

    As for people who only comment to cut others down you should feel foolish , and ashamed for your negative comments , when people are already suffering .

  10. Pingback: Aleve Vs Advil For ArthritisTinySide.com | TinySide.com

  11. Matt


    November 20, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Just go get morphine or methadone or just stop complaining

  12. Nedaroon


    November 8, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Amazing!!! There is quite clearly a disclaimer at the end stating that this info is not medical advice and to contact your Dr/Pharmacist. Yet people still
    post questions asking ‘ooo, can I take this with this whilst taking something else for another ailment/illness’?. I work in the pharmaceutical industry & I know what damage happens to your body/organs when medications are taken together.
    I guess what I’m saying is Please always
    check before mixing medications. Always seek medical advice & Never Ever take anyone else’s medication even if your symptoms are similar.

  13. JB


    September 26, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Should you take Naproxen with Sudafed

  14. Marilyn


    June 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Okay, great info here, but could you please clarify last sentence in the Ibuprofen vs. Naproxen section? It is unclear and kind of confusing. Thanks!

  15. Ron


    May 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    There are nine paragraphs. I don’t understand the last sentence in the 6th paragraph. Nice article though; thanks.


  16. carmen


    March 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    these are pain relievers so i assume it does not heal the muscle. i have hurt my arm with strenous activity and it does not get better in two weeks. these medication has completely stopped the pain for two days. Is it healed or just numbed.

    • olive


      March 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Do these pain killers also heal the muscle or just relieve pain

      • jeff


        December 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

        Indirectly … they reduce inflammation which can aid in healing, but they don’t affect healing directly.

    • Kieran Davidson

      Kieran Davidson

      May 19, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      NSAIDs can actually have a deleterious effect on muscle healing. You should never take NSAIDs in the 2 days after a muscle strain. If you then start taking them after 2 days for the pain, you shouldn’t take them for any more than 7 days. The pain relieving effects can indeed be due to the anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is a cause of pain, but it is also important for healing.

      So, to answer your question – NSAIDs can help improve healing to a very small extent. However, if you’re not careful they can impair the healing process and even lead to more scar tissue forming than is necessary, which in turn can reduce the strength of the muscle when it is healed.

      All of the information I’ve outlined above is taken from the latest scientific research into muscle strain healing.

  17. Raghu


    February 11, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Thank you. Very nice and precise information. Please keep the page update as you find more information.

    Especially I would like to expand to acetaphen.. (Thylenol) and Asprin as these are common as well.

    • bjoates


      May 6, 2014 at 12:37 am

      Thanks for your feedback, I have pain in my right knee that my Dr. diagnosed as Osteoarthritis. I was prescribed Naproxen, I hope it works for me as well. I was using the Icy/Hot patches but it was only a slightly temporary relief.

    • Matt


      November 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

      So Tylenol works for the body never Thylenol was only meant only for thighs

      • J


        November 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm

        Hyuck hyuck hyuck

      • roadrunner


        May 29, 2015 at 3:42 pm

        I guess you’re not smart enough to realize that for many people English is their 2nd or 3rd language, so you make fun of them. You, on the other hand, think your English is good, although it really stinks. Have you ever heard of punctuation marks or do you even know what they are??? Good grief!

      • You


        July 12, 2015 at 5:47 pm

        Um, what?

    • Bill


      April 20, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      Comparing acetaminophen here wouldn’t make much sense. It’s not an NSAID, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. You also mentioned wanting to know more about Aspirin. Well, Aspirin is only name brand Naproxen, so you should be able to use the above information for that as well :)

      • Bill


        April 20, 2015 at 5:57 pm

        To my above comment, I must apologize for quoting that Aspirin was Naproxen. I had misread and was thinking of Aleve.

  18. April


    October 5, 2013 at 7:51 am

    I’ve had moderate joint pain for the past 2 or 3 years, it would get progressively worse throughout the day. I have been in the habit of taking ibuprofen in the morning and at night. Last week, I decided to try naproxen, and I noticed a change within a week. No pain! I can’t believe how effectively it has worked for me.

    • susan


      October 25, 2014 at 2:03 am

      Am I getting severe arthritis or not? I have ankle swelling joint pains and wrist and hand elbow problems I feel like I am becoming worse each month !,I have Brufen and also I have Naproxen I have been prescribed capsules for the severe Pain sometimes I don’t feel much improved?

      • Mark


        May 9, 2015 at 6:02 pm

        Susan, do you walk daily or get any exercise? I have similar issues if I just sit around all day and do nothing so instead I get out and exercise on a daily basis and swelling is kept under control.

        It also helps to keep weight down so cut out sugars such as HFCS and stop drinking sodas. Stop eating fast foods and cut back on sodium as well. Once you teach your body to stop craving sugars and sodium you will be surprised how much better you feel.

      • Kieran Davidson

        Kieran Davidson

        May 19, 2015 at 9:27 pm

        I have to disagree with Mark. It seems he’s suggesting that cutting out sugar and sodium will automatically cure. In reality, a healthy lifestyle and diet is important for being healthy in general, but it won’t be an automatic cure. It can make it easier to cope though.

        Firstly, it really depends on what type of arthritis you have. Osteoarthritis is joint damage and cartilage breakdown due to ‘wear and tear’. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system essentially attacks the joint spaces.

        For OA, a healthy lifestyle – including diet, non-smoking, exercise etc – is the most important treatment along with pain killers like ibuprofen, paracetamol or naproxen.

        RA, however, is much more serious. If you suspect you have RA you should see a doctor immediately as medication called disease-modifying-anti-rheumatic-drugs are vital as part of treatment. RA is generally much more severe than OA and can increase risk of other diseases like cardiovascular disease.

        I’d suggest first you see a doctor and figure out if you have arthritis or not. If you do, you’ll have to know which type you have. Finally, you should follow your doctor’s advice and ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle.

        Good luck!

    • Matt


      November 20, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Wow really do you relay belive that lie you just said must be that “medication” your taking on the side that helps the most you lady are most gullible for believing that your the reason stupid people exist further more your story is irrelevant and total lies based off this post get a life and get your knee checked out professionally or risk of getting amputated

      • Jeff


        December 27, 2014 at 10:52 pm

        Worst run on sentence ever, sorry. Use punctuation and spell check.

        • brian


          April 21, 2015 at 2:18 pm

          gotta agree with you Jeff on that one lol

      • Mark


        May 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm

        Matt is it necessary to call people stupid? Your comment is useless not to mention your use of the English language is pathetic.

        Future advice, just read the article and move on if you don’t have something useful or positive to add to the discussion.

      • You


        July 12, 2015 at 5:45 pm

        Matt, no need for name-calling. Especially when you haven’t included a single punctuation mark in your entire statement. Take a breath and add a period or comma or two.

  19. zery mitha

    zery mitha

    August 19, 2013 at 5:14 am

    to take tylenol for arthritis with Ibuprofen or Naproxen together

  20. zery mitha

    zery mitha

    August 19, 2013 at 5:10 am

    is it safe to take tylenol for arthritis with either Ibuprofen or Naproxen at the same time?

    Thanks, Zery Mitha

    • Dahlia Blair

      Dahlia Blair

      November 8, 2014 at 12:08 am

      No, it’s not!

    • Jake Johnson

      Jake Johnson

      November 10, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      My caregivers have recommended 800mg of ibuprofen with 1000mg of acetaminophen to tackle pain for short periods. The risk, and why others say that you shouldn’t take both, is that your liver would suffer if you were to take too much of these medications for too long of a time period.

      Of course, you may have other health issues that would complicate things so it would be best to check with your physician before taking anything.

    • vanessa


      January 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Never take naproxen with other NSAIDS.

      • roadrunner


        May 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm

        I agree with that statement, because several doctors (treating me for different issues) over the years have told me the same thing. I’m 68 y.o. and have my share of pain, but I listen to drs. rather than the general public. Each person is quite different with regard to what their level of pain is and what meds they can tolerate. Have a great day!

    • Kieran Davidson

      Kieran Davidson

      May 19, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      I don’t know where the people who responded to this are getting their information from – specifically the people who say it’s not suitable to combine tylenol and an NSAID. It is fine to take tylenol (acetaminophen/paracetamol) together with ibuprofen OR naproxen. Of course two NSAIDs shouldn’t be taken together, though.

      Paracetamol acts centrally (in the central nervous system) without any peripheral or anti-inflammatory actions. Conversely, NSAIDs work throughout the body to reduce inflammation by blocking the action of cyclooxygenase which forms various inflammatory mediators, as well as prostaglandins which increase pain sensitivity.

      It would probably be recommended to take each at a low dose. For example, 400mg of ibuprofen along with 500mg-1g of tylenol. The only side effects would be liver problems with long term use. But if used for acute problems then it should be absolutely fine.

    • joe


      June 8, 2015 at 3:51 am

      I do not believe that they cannot be taken together for short periods of time but I dont think it is recommendable to do so for an extended period. On top of that, if you are, or ever were a heavy drinker I think it is common knowledge that you should avoid Tylenol(acetaminophen) all costs as it affects the liver the worst. There have been many documented cases of persons who have had a night out drinking and then came home and took Tylenol & never woke up due to the heavy toll the alcohol & the acetaminophen took on the liver.

    • You


      July 12, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      I take Tylenol/Acetaminophen daily, and I frequently add Naproxen or Ibuprofen. It depends on what type of pain I’m having. I’ve never had an issue, and I was told it’s fine by my Dr years ago. Look up pain management; they’re often stacked, even with opiates included.

  21. Duy Nguyen

    Duy Nguyen

    June 5, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Thank you very much. Your information is very useful for people like me.

    • Heather


      March 6, 2015 at 12:47 am

      That isn’t true. My doctor prescribed a schedule of ibuprofen and Tylenol over a ten day period to help with pain from an abcessed tooth while I was taking antibiotics to address the infection. They worked much better together than separately and helped take a serious edge off a great deal of pain.

      • Bill


        April 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm

        Tylenol isn’t an NSAID. It’s just name brand acetaminophen. Its primary use is pain, and has no true anti-inflammatory properties.

      • Mark


        May 9, 2015 at 5:56 pm

        Don’t say something isn’t true unless you are an expert and what does an abscessed tooth have anything to do with what this article was attempting to explain?

        This article is not designed to provide medical advice but only as a guideline to help me make a decision on whether to buy over-the-counter ibuprofen or naproxen based pain relievers.

        I truly wish some people would keep their comments to themselves on the internet.

        • You


          July 12, 2015 at 5:41 pm

          No offense, but wishing the internet wasn’t used for people to express their opinions sounds ridiculous. Do you expect people to be always polite, as well? Lol! The internet is where people don’t HAVE to keep their comments to themselves, hence “comment sections” on most sites! LOL! Heather was simply sharing her experience. You didn’t have to read her opinion.



    September 23, 2015 at 10:54 am

    And this is what Crack does……….DONT DO IT!!

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