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.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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

      November 8, 2014 at 12:08 am

      No, it’s not!

    • 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.

  3. zery mitha

    August 19, 2013 at 5:14 am

    to take tylenol for arthritis with Ibuprofen or Naproxen together

  4. 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?

    • 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  8. 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!

  9. JB

    September 26, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Should you take Naproxen with Sudafed

  10. 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.

  11. Matt

    November 20, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Just go get morphine or methadone or just stop complaining

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

  13. 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 .

  14. 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….

  15. ISAKOF

    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.

  16. 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.

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