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What Are the Pros and Cons of Ibuprofen for Cramps?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2018
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Many women turn to over-the-counter pain relievers to help ease the discomfort of menstrual cramps. Ibuprofen is a popular choice among sufferers of cramps, but before reaching for this drug to reduce menstrual pain, it can be useful to know about its pros and cons. On the upside, using ibuprofen for cramps is generally an effective, reasonably inexpensive, and very accessible method for relieving the discomfort they cause. Yet it is important to note that ibuprofen may need to be taken with more frequency than some other over-the-counter pain relievers, that it does not relieve other pre-menstrual or menstrual symptoms, and that in rare cases, it can cause stomach bleeding.

Perhaps the primary advantage of using ibuprofen for cramps is that it is generally quite effective at reducing pain. Ibuprofen works by inhibiting the release of chemicals known as prostaglandins, which are responsible for swelling and pain. When prostaglandin production is inhibited, one’s pain level drops. While other over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, function in a similar way, many find that ibuprofen is the most effective choice for reducing cramps.

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Additionally, using ibuprofen for cramps is usually a relatively inexpensive and fairly convenient treatment option. Ibuprofen is sold over the counter in many countries, and thus can be purchased without a prescription in pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, and even some vending machines. This non-prescription status saves both a trip to the doctor’s office and the high costs often associated with prescription drugs. It should be noted, however, that high doses of ibuprofen will likely require a prescription.

Taking ibuprofen for cramps may also have a downside. First, some individuals may find they need to take multiple doses of ibuprofen throughout the day to keep cramps from flaring up. Other over-the-counter pain relievers, especially naproxen sodium, may be better at keeping cramps at bay for long stretches.

In addition, while ibuprofen can help ease cramps, it does not offer relief from certain other pre-menstrual or menstrual symptoms such as bloating and fatigue. Those who want a multi-symptom medication might find that a product designed specifically for pre-menstrual or menstrual complaints is their best bet. Some multi-symptom formulations contain a pain reliever as well as a diuretic agent to reduce bloating and caffeine to combat fatigue. While such products might provide temporary relief from a range of symptoms, however, some medical experts caution that they may actually produce nausea, irritability, and even kidney and liver issues in certain individuals.

Finally, in rare cases, using ibuprofen for cramps can lead to stomach bleeding, a potentially serious condition. The chance of developing stomach bleeding is increased among those taking certain other medications while using ibuprofen. To lower the risk of this side effect, it is important to take all drugs as directed, and to speak to one’s physician about potential interactions when starting a new medication.

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pastanaga
Post 3

@croydon - It's still not good to get into the habit of taking pain medication too often though. It can become less powerful as you get used to it, which means it can be addictive, especially if you have chronic pain, which many people who suffer cramps might have.

I also think it can get in the way of finding a diagnosis. If you are regularly in a lot of pain from cramps then it might be because you aren't drinking enough water, or getting enough sunshine or exercise or vitamins, or maybe because you have a medical condition.

Taking a pill and hoping it will go away is only a short term solution.

croydon
Post 2

@pleonasm - I find in a lot of cases taking any painkiller is helpful for cramps because they get worse when you tense up and you tense up when you're in pain.

I had a thing against taking pills of any kind when I was younger and a doctor told me that in some ways the best thing it can do is just make you feel better, because then your body will be better equipped to heal itself without the burden of pain.

pleonasm
Post 1

The reason I like using ibuprofen rather than other kinds of pain reliever is because I know it's an anti-inflammatory so it's going to actually do some healing rather than just blocking pain. If you're getting cramps because of inflammation, then taking pain killers is only going to help in the short term but won't help in the long term.

Ibuprofen tends to be fairly hard on the liver though, so don't take too much of it or mix it with other medications unless you know it's safe (i.e. because a doctor told you).

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