What is Ibuprofen Cream?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Ibuprofen cream may be used to soothe sports injuries.
Ibuprofen cream may be used to soothe sports injuries.

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.

Side effects of oral ibuprofen may include nausea.
Side effects of oral ibuprofen may include nausea.

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.

Ibuprofen cream may be used to relieve discomfort associated with arthritis.
Ibuprofen cream may be used to relieve discomfort associated with arthritis.

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.

Topical analgesic is applied directly to skin for pain relief.
Topical analgesic is applied directly to skin for pain relief.

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.

Ibuprofen cream can be used to soothe sunburn.
Ibuprofen cream can be used to soothe sunburn.

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.

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Discussion Comments

bluedolphin

I tried ibuprofen cream for tendinitis. It didn't do a thing, I switched backed to the tablets. I don't think that the cream is as strong and effective as the tablet medication. I don't know if it works for other people, but this has been my experience.

fBoyle

@burcinc-- I believe it's still off the market because my aunt orders some from my cousins in France.

I think they should finish up any studies they're doing and release it as soon as possible. It's a good medication, I've heard of many people with chronic pain and sports injuries using it. My aunt has chronic back pain because of a hernia and she has to use a topical muscle relaxant and pain reliever on a regular basis.

Oral ibuprofen has side effects, it causes a lot of stomach problems. This is true for all oral NSAIDs. It's even been shown in studies to be a major cause of ulcers. The good thing about the topical cream is that it absorbs into skin and enters the bloodstream without going through the intestinal tract. So the chances of stomach issues become less likely.

burcinc

Is topical ibuprofen cream back on the market yet? I know it's being used in Europe, I was prescribed it several times when I lived in the UK a couple of years ago. I liked it and would like to buy it here if it's available.

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    • Ibuprofen cream may be used to soothe sports injuries.
      By: Jasminko Ibrakovic
      Ibuprofen cream may be used to soothe sports injuries.
    • Side effects of oral ibuprofen may include nausea.
      By: Andrzej Wilusz
      Side effects of oral ibuprofen may include nausea.
    • Ibuprofen cream may be used to relieve discomfort associated with arthritis.
      By: Sandor Kacso
      Ibuprofen cream may be used to relieve discomfort associated with arthritis.
    • Topical analgesic is applied directly to skin for pain relief.
      By: FirstBlood
      Topical analgesic is applied directly to skin for pain relief.
    • Ibuprofen cream can be used to soothe sunburn.
      By: Amy Walters
      Ibuprofen cream can be used to soothe sunburn.