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Ibuprofen and caffeine together may be a more effective pain reliever than ibuprofen alone, according to some research. Caffeine may have analgesic properties of its own and is available with the pain reliever acetaminophen in the US. As of 2011 a combination of caffeine and ibuprofen pain reliever is not marketed in the US.
A survey of tension headache pain relief was conducted among individuals who suffered from at least three headaches a month. Participants in the study were given either ibuprofen and caffeine, ibuprofen alone, caffeine alone or a placebo containing neither drug. Using stopwatches, participants were then asked to indicate if and when they began to feel pain relief and when their pain significantly subsided.
Participants taking both ibuprofen and caffeine felt pain relief more quickly. In addition, 80% of the study participants who took a combination of ibuprofen and caffeine stated that they felt an overall significant improvement in their headache pain, versus 67% for those who took ibuprofen by itself. A total of 61% taking caffeine felt a notable improvement in their pain compared to 56% of those taking a placebo. It is important to note, however, that study participants who took both ibuprofen and caffeine together or caffeine alone had a higher incidence of negative side effects, including dizziness, restlessness and nausea.
One of the most widely used drugs worldwide, caffeine expands the blood vessels and boosts the flow of blood, which may account for its possible usefulness in relieving headache pain. It has also been called a mood elevator, which could be another possible reason for its positive effects on pain. Caffeine also increases the heart and respiratory rate, in addition to decreasing tiredness and improving attention. Coffee, tea, chocolate and some soft drinks contain significant amounts of caffeine.
A combination of caffeine and acetaminophen, or aspirin, is marketed under the brand name Excedrin® in the US. As of 2011 there are no drugs available in the US that combine ibuprofen and caffeine. Since the mixture of these drugs can have negative side effects for some people, it is not recommended that those seeking pain relief self-medicate by combining ibuprofen and caffeine. Possible side effects of too much caffeine include nervousness, irritability, restlessness and insomnia. Some unsubstantiated reports on the Internet indicate that the impact of combining ibuprofen with large amounts of caffeine is similar to the effect of taking cocaine.