Nerve pain is debilitating as it is not a condition of few days, it is challenging to live with an illness that is continually there. Considering the chronic nature of the nerve pain, it is best to try to treat it with the help of non-pharmacological methods.
However, non-pharmacological methods may fail in certain conditions to relieve pain, thus necessitating the need for medical drugs. When it comes to the medications, people would mostly start with some of the over-the-counter painkillers, and ibuprofen is one of the most common of them.
Before we look deeper into the ibuprofen, its mode of action and its role in nerve pain let us explore some of the most commonly used over the counter medications to treat nerve pain.
- Topical creams and ointments– if anyone is suffering from some painful condition of muscles, joints, or nerves, topical painkillers come first to the mind. There are hundreds of creams and ointment with various formulations available in the pharmacies, each with a different formulation. It always makes sense to give them a try, since topical painkillers are much safer than tablets or capsules. Some of the topical analgesics contain the drugs or medications that are taken orally too, while others are based on the natural ingredients. Capsaicin is one natural extract (extract of chili pepper) that has been well investigated for nerve pain and has been proven to help in many cases. It helps by improving the local blood flow, and it also helps by deviating the attention from the pain. Many topical ointments contain the various botanical oils. What is known is that many of them may help, however, very little is understood about the mechanism of action of such ointments that are based on natural ingredients.
- Painkillers – next common thing that most people with painful nerve resort to is the use of over-the-counter painkillers. Acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen are most common among These painkillers are useful for mild to moderate pain. Except for acetaminophen, most of the standard painkillers also have an anti-inflammatory effect. Although these painkillers are quite safe in the short term, there are several side effects if taken over an extended period. However, nerve pain lasts for months or even in some cases for years, and thus there is a risk of side effects and abuse of medications by the patients.
- Supplements and vitamins- they may or may not help. However, they are regarded as quite safe. Thus no surprise that most people living with nerve pain would take multivitamins and supplements from time to time.
Ibuprofen for nerve pain
As we already mentioned that ibuprofen is one of the most common of drugs that are used to treat various painful conditions. It would help in mild to moderate nerve pain. It belongs to the class of drugs called NSAID (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs). Apart from pain reduction, ibuprofen also helps to reduce fever, and it has anti-inflammatory action. Ibuprofen has been included in the WHO list of essential drugs due to its effectiveness, safety profile, and low cost.
However, it must be understood that ibuprofen is not a specific drug for nerve pain, and it is not intended for long-term use. With long-term use, there may be many side effects of these drugs.
Ibuprofen works by inhibiting the production of so-called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances produced by our body in response to injury, and they cause pain and swelling (or inflammation). Prostaglandins are also responsible for causing fever.
Painkiller effect of ibuprofen starts within hours; however, its anti-inflammatory effects takes few days to reach the peak (sometimes even weeks). Although ibuprofen is a safe and effective drug, it is not free from side effects.
Side effects of ibuprofen
Ibuprofen is not indicated for those with allergies to aspirin. It is also known to irritate stomach, weaken its defenses and thus increase the risk of gastritis or even peptic ulcer. Ibuprofen is also not indicated in those with severe heart failure.
In 2015, FDA gave the warning regarding ibuprofen that it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, especially on the prolonged usage. Thus if a person is taking ibuprofen and feels tightness in chest, sudden weakness, or slurred speech, there is a reason to worry and seek immediate medical attention.
Ibuprofen should be used with caution in those who have asthma, liver disease, kidney disease, heart diseases, history of ulcer or stomach bleeding.
In some individual ibuprofen may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dyspepsia, abdominal pain, dizziness. In rare cases, it may cause fluid retention, edema, dizziness.
Although ibuprofen is not addictive, it is difficult to withdraw after prolonged use. Some people feel alterations in mood, headaches, thus making withdrawal difficult.
Thus, one must understand that though ibuprofen would help in mild to moderate nerve pains, there are specific health risks in the prolonged use of the drug.