Ibuprofen vs Diclofenac

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For patients suffering from a range of pain-related conditions, inflammation or fever, specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that target and inhibit the production of prostaglandins — substances in the body that mediate inflammation and pain — can provide significant alleviation. Ibuprofen and Diclofenac are two such NSAID medications commonly prescribed for these symptoms. Both drugs function to lower levels of prostaglandins, but they do so using slightly different mechanisms. Ibuprofen is a propionic acid derivative that reduces inflammation by inhibiting both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, responsible for producing prostaglandins. On the other hand, Diclofenac is classified as an Acetic Acid derivative with more potent anti-inflammatory effects due to its selective inhibition of COX-2 enzyme over COX-1.

What is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen, known by brand names such as Advil or Motrin, is a member of the NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) class. It was first approved by the FDA in 1974. Ibuprofen works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain in the body, making it effective for relief from various types of pain such as dental pain, menstrual cramps, muscle aches or arthritis. Unlike opioids which affect the central nervous system to block pain signals to your brain, ibuprofen targets and reduces specific enzymes at the site of injury.

Diclofenac on the other hand is also an NSAID but was first introduced later than ibuprofen in 1988 under brand names like Voltaren among others. Diclofenac inhibits both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes which are involved in inflammatory responses within your body resulting not only in significant decrease in inflammation but also providing analgesic effects. Due to its potency against these enzymes diclofenac can provide more potent anti-inflammatory effect compared to ibuprofen.

However while both these drugs have similar side effects profile due to their mechanism of action including risk of gastrointestinal bleeding with long term use; diclofenac has been observed to be associated with higher risk towards heart related issues compared with ibuprophen.

What conditions is Ibuprofen approved to treat?

Diclofenac and Ibuprofen are both approved for the treatment of various forms of pain and inflammation:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects joints
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a type of spinal arthritis
  • Mild to moderate pain, such as dental or post-operative pain

How does Ibuprofen help with these illnesses?

Ibuprofen works to manage pain, inflammation and fever by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins. It does this by blocking cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, thus reducing levels of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances in the body that play a role in pain and inflammation responses to injury or disease, as well as regulating body temperature. Lower levels of them mean less pain and reduced inflammation.

Diclofenac operates similarly but is generally more potent than ibuprofen due to its stronger affinity for COX enzymes. This makes Diclofenac potentially more effective at relieving severe symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis but also often results in a higher risk profile with regards to side effects compared to Ibuprofen. Both medicines should be used under appropriate guidance considering an individual's overall health condition.

What is Diclofenac?

Diclofenac, known by several brand names including Voltaren and Cambia, is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that acts as an inhibitor of prostaglandin synthesis. Like ibuprofen, it works to reduce inflammation and pain in the body through inhibition of cyclooxygenase enzymes; however, diclofenac has been found to be more potent in this action than ibuprofen. Diclofenac was first approved by the FDA in 1988 and can be used for conditions such as arthritis or acute migraines. Unlike SSRIs like Prozac which target serotonin reuptake, NSAIDs like Diclofenac don't act on neurotransmitters but instead focus on reducing the production of chemical messengers (prostaglandins) that cause inflammation and subsequent pain when released into your body's tissues. Side effects may include digestive issues or liver problems rather than sedation or sexual dysfunction often associated with SSRI medications like Prozac. Its powerful anti-inflammatory effects make Diclofenac particularly effective for patients who need stronger relief from inflammation-related symptoms.

What conditions is Diclofenac approved to treat?

Diclofenac is an effective medication that has been FDA-approved for the treatment of a range of conditions, which include:

  • Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis affecting the spine)
  • Migraines
  • Acute gout flares This versatile drug helps to mitigate pain, inflammation, and stiffness caused by these conditions.

How does Diclofenac help with these illnesses?

Diclofenac, similar to Ibuprofen, belongs to the class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acts by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), which plays a crucial role in the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are compounds that promote inflammation, pain, and fever as part of your body's healing process. By blocking their production, Diclofenac helps to alleviate these symptoms. Unlike ibuprofen however, diclofenac is more potent and is often reserved for moderate to severe pain or inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. It may be prescribed when less potent NSAIDs like ibuprofen do not provide adequate relief from symptoms.

How effective are both Ibuprofen and Diclofenac?

Both ibuprofen and diclofenac have long histories of use in treating pain, inflammation, and fever. They were approved by the FDA within a few years of each other during the 1980s. As NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), they act on similar pathways but may be prescribed under different circumstances due to their individual characteristics.

A double-blind randomized controlled trial conducted in 2007 compared the analgesic efficacy and safety profile of ibuprofen against diclofenac for dental pain; both drugs demonstrated comparable effectiveness in alleviating symptoms as well as showing similar safety profiles. Moreover, neither drug showed any significant differences across multiple metrics that measure effectiveness in treating dental pain.

A review from 2015 highlighted that ibuprofen is often chosen as first-line therapy for mild to moderate acute pain conditions due to its efficacy starting from low doses (400 mg), a favorable adverse effect profile compared with other NSAIDs, and good tolerance even among elderly populations. The same study notes that ibuprofen has become one of the most widely used over-the-counter medication worldwide.

On the other hand, a meta-analysis published in 2016 suggested that while diclofenac seems more effective than placebo or paracetamol (acetaminophen) at higher doses (150 mg/day) for chronic musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, it usually ranks below coxibs—a class of newer NSAIDs—for gastrointestinal safety. Despite this concern around GI effects at high dosage levels though, lower-dose formulations are generally well-tolerated and offer patients an additional option when choosing an appropriate treatment strategy for their specific condition.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Ibuprofen typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Ibuprofen range from 200-800 mg per dose, but studies have indicated that a lower-end dose of 200-400 mg is often sufficient for managing mild to moderate pain or fever in most people. Children's dosage is determined by their weight, usually around 5-10 mg/kg every six to eight hours. In contrast, Diclofenac typically starts at a lower oral dosage of 50–150 mg/day divided into two or three doses for adults dealing with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. For children over six years old, the Diclofenac dosage depends on the child’s weight and shouldn't exceed 2mg/kg daily divided into two doses. It should be noted that these are general guidelines; any increase in dosages should only occur under medical supervision and never exceed the maximum recommended amounts.

At what dose is Diclofenac typically prescribed?

Diclofenac treatment is typically initiated at a dosage of 50–100 mg/day, divided into two or three doses. This can then be increased to 150 mg/day if necessary, also spread over two or three intake periods. It's crucial to maintain at least six hours between each dose for optimal results and safety. The maximum daily dose is 200 mg, split into four doses of 50 mg with an interval of six hours in between, which may be considered if there is no response to the initial treatment after several weeks. As always, medication adjustments should be made under the guidance and supervision of your healthcare provider.

What are the most common side effects for Ibuprofen?

Common side effects of Ibuprofen and Diclofenac can include:

  • Indigestion, heartburn or stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Rash, itching or skin irritation
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Mild fatigue and sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Bloating and gas

In rare cases, these drugs can cause more serious issues like:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)
  • Ulcers in your stomach or intestines
  • Kidney failure

If you experience any unusual symptoms while taking ibuprofen or diclofenac, consult a healthcare professional immediately.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Ibuprofen?

While taking diclofenac, you should be on the lookout for several potential side effects that could indicate serious problems. These include:

  • Symptoms of a heart attack or stroke: chest pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder, sudden numbness or weakness on one side of your body, slurred speech, feeling short of breath.
  • Signs of stomach bleeding: bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.
  • Liver problems: nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, flu-like symptoms; loss of appetite; dark urine; clay-colored stools; jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
  • Skin reactions: rash (even mild); fever; swollen glands; severe blistering and peeling - especially if accompanied by redness and white patches in your mouth/throat.
  • Kidney issues: little to no urination at all; painful/difficult urination; swelling in feet/ankles from fluid retention.

If any such experiences occur while using diclofenac as part of your treatment regimen, it's important that you discontinue its use immediately and consult with a healthcare provider.

What are the most common side effects for Diclofenac?

When comparing Diclofenac to Ibuprofen, it's important to note that while both are effective for pain relief, they may have different side effects. Diclofenac users might experience:

  • Indigestion or stomach discomfort
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Mild skin rash or itching
  • Sleep disturbances including insomnia
  • Increased perspiration A feeling of nervousness or anxiety is also not uncommon. Rapid heartbeat can occur but is less common. It's important to monitor body weight as changes could indicate fluid retention. In some cases, confusion or agitation has been reported. While a dry mouth isn't typical with diclofenac use, sore throat and stuffy nose could be signs of an allergic reaction requiring medical attention. Muscle and joint pain should decrease with treatment; increased pain requires further consultation with your healthcare provider.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Diclofenac?

While Diclofenac has a similar safety profile to Ibuprofen, it can also cause severe side effects in rare cases. These may include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction or serious skin condition: such as hives, itching, fever, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty breathing or swallowing due to throat swelling, inflamed eyes causing burning sensation and redness; skin pain followed by a red or purple rash that spreads (especially on the face or upper body) leading to blistering and peeling.
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior: including confusion and unexplained restlessness.
  • Vision issues like blurred vision or even temporary blindness, eye pain and redness.
  • Heart-related problems: particularly rapid heartbeat which might signal heart failure; chest pressure could indicate a possible heart attack
  • Liver complications indicated by symptoms such as nausea that doesn't go away, loss of appetite for several days along with yellowing of your skin/eyes (jaundice) If you experience any one of these aforementioned symptoms while taking Diclofenac immediately contact health care provider.

Contraindications for Ibuprofen and Diclofenac?

Both ibuprofen and diclofenac, similar to most other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may increase the risk of serious cardiovascular events. If you notice any unusual symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or sudden weakness on one side of the body while taking these medications, seek immediate medical attention.

Neither ibuprofen nor diclofenac should be taken if you are already using other NSAIDs or medicines that can affect your kidney function. Always inform your physician about all the medications and supplements you are taking; certain drugs might need a period to clear from your system in order to prevent dangerous interactions with both ibuprofen and diclofenac.

Furthermore, individuals with conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or gastric ulcers should use these medications under close monitoring due to their potential harmful effects. As a rule of thumb for safe medication usage: when in doubt, always consult with healthcare professionals.

How much do Ibuprofen and Diclofenac cost?

For the brand-name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Voltaren (Diclofenac 50 mg) averages around $140, which works out to approximately $2.30–$4.65/day, depending on your dose.
  • The price for a bottle of Advil (Ibuprofen 200 mg), consisting of about 100 tablets is roughly $10-$15, equating to nearly $0.20–$0.40/day.

Therefore, if you're in the higher dosage range for Diclofenac (i.e., 150 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Ibuprofen is less costly on a per-day treatment basis. However, cost should not be your primary consideration when deciding which medicine is best for you.

When it comes to generic versions:

  • Generic ibuprofen costs are substantially lower with a pack containing up to 500 capsules (200mg each). This translates into costs ranging from as low as $0.04/day if you buy the largest pack upfront and doesn't exceed about $0.08/day.
  • Diclofenac sodium (50mg tablets) is available in packs starting from 30 capsules upwards with approximate costs between $1 and $3 per day for dosages around 100 mg daily or between $1 and $6 daily at maximum doses up to or even exceeding 300mg.

Popularity of Ibuprofen and Diclofenac

Ibuprofen, in generic form as well as brand names such as Advil and Motrin, was estimated to have been prescribed over 20 million times in the US in 2020. Ibuprofen accounted for just over 15% of NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) prescriptions in the US. Its usage has been generally increasing since it was first introduced over-the-counter.

Diclofenac, including brand versions such as Voltaren, was prescribed to around 6.8 million people in the USA in 2020. In the US, diclofenac accounts for about 9% of NSAID prescriptions overall. The prevalence of diclofenac has seen a moderate increase over the last decade due to its effectiveness at managing pain and inflammation associated with conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Both ibuprofen and diclofenac have a long-standing record of usage in patients with pain, inflammation or fever. They are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins which cause these symptoms.

While both drugs can be used to treat similar conditions, there are important differences in their uses and side effects. Ibuprofen is considered a first-line option for mild to moderate pain relief while diclofenac often serves as an alternative when other NSAIDs aren't effective or appropriate.

Both medications come as generics, providing cost savings especially for those who must pay out-of-pocket expenses. However, they may require some time before noticeable effects kick in due to their mechanism of action.

In terms of side effects, both drugs share common risks associated with NSAID use such as stomach upset or ulcers, cardiac issues and kidney damage if used over long periods at high doses. But it appears that diclofenac carries a higher cardiovascular risk compared to ibuprofen. For this reason, patients should monitor their health closely when starting treatment with either drug and seek medical help immediately if they notice severe abdominal pain or changes suggestive of heart problems.