Ibuprofen cream, or ibuprofen which is applied topically, is heralded by many as a safer alternative to oral ibuprofen. It is alleged by these supporters to ease pain resulting from a number of different conditions, such as sports injuries or arthritis. Some medical experts argue, however, that sufficient evidence that ibuprofen cream works and causes no harmful side effects does not yet exist. Due to concerns over this lack of evidence, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the removal of topical ibuprofen products from the market in the late 2000s.
Like acetaminophen and naproxen, ibuprofen belongs to the group of painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It works by temporarily preventing the body from producing a chemical called prostaglandin, which instructs the nerves to send pain signals in the brain. Normally, ibuprofen is taken by mouth. When taken in high does, however, oral ibuprofen can cause digestive problems such as nausea, constipation, and even gastrointestinal bleeding. In extremely rare cases, it can cause very severe side effects such as kidney damage and heart failure.
For those who wish to use ibuprofen to manage their pain while avoiding the possible side effects of its oral form, ibuprofen cream may present an alternative. As its name suggests, this cream contains ibuprofen suspended in a topical cream. This cream is rubbed onto external areas of the body which are in pain. Many users of this cream claim that it can temporarily but effectively relieve pain resulting from a wide range of conditions, including arthritis, a sports injury, or a herniated disk.
While ibuprofen cream is widely available throughout many European and Asian countries, some medical experts argue that its usefulness has not yet been conclusively established. Further research is needed, these experts say, before the painkilling potential of the cream is fully understood. In addition, many researchers warn that the possible side effects of topical ibuprofen are not yet completely known.
Due to concerns over the need for additional research, the US FDA ordered the removal of topical ibuprofen from the market in the late 2000s. The FDA did not state that ibuprofen creams were unsafe. Rather, its order for removal was based upon cream manufacturers’ claims that their products were safer than oral ibuprofen. As sufficient research has not yet been completed, the FDA explained, it is not yet possible to know whether these safety claims are in fact accurate.