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.
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.