It’s second nature for many people to pop an ibuprofen at the first sign of a headache. Since ibuprofen, found in popular products such as Advil and Motrin, is the first and last resort of many migraine sufferers, scientists are especially interested in the drug’s effectiveness. Researchers at the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review of nine reputable studies on the topic. Overall, they found that ibuprofen is successful at alleviating the pain of more than half of people with serious headaches.
In total, 4,373 participants took part in the combined studies, and the majority of these subjects complained of suffering from chronic headaches for more than a year prior to participating. Using ibuprofen alone did not cure headaches for most of the people. Twenty percent of people who took 200 mg of ibuprofen reported feeling free of pain two hours after taking the drug. Increasing the dosage somewhat improved the results: 26 percent were pain-free after taking 400 mg. As a point of comparison, with both drug amounts, about half as many people reported feeling pain-free after taking a placebo.
However, with regards to headache relief, the figures were more optimistic. Just one hour after taking ibuprofen, a little more than one-third of ibuprofen takers reported reduced pain at both the 200 and 400 mg dosages. After two hours, more than half of headache sufferers reported significantly less pain. Fifty-two percent of people felt better after taking 200 mg compared to 57 percent who took 400 mg.
Researchers were also interested in whether the drug had a long-lasting impact. For people who took 400 mg of ibuprofen, 18 percent were still free of pain a full day later, while 54 percent said their pain had decreased notably in the same 24-hour period.
Though it is uncommon for ibuprofen to eradicate pain entirely, various studies demonstrate that the drug may lessen the pain in many people. For this reason, the reviews’ authors conclude that it may be worthwhile for people experiencing severe headaches to try 400 mg of ibuprofen to see if it improves their own symptoms. As migraine sufferers can testify, even a slight decrease in pain can make the difference in being able to get out of bed and properly functioning for the day.