This Is What Happens When You Take Ibuprofen 30 Days in a Row, According to Doctors

Motrin, Midol, Advil, and Addaprin—these are all brand names of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)…

Motrin, Midol, Advil, and Addaprin—these are all brand names of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ibuprofen, and many of us keep a bottle or two of this medicine in the bathroom cabinet in case of headaches, cramps, or other minor discomforts. In addition to the over-the-counter (OTC) version that can be grabbed off the shelf, prescription ibuprofen was also the 38th most prescribed drug in the U.S. as of 2020, so a lot of us are taking it. But just because it’s popular and easy to obtain, does that mean it’s safe to take every day? We asked a doctor. Read on to see what might happen to your body if you take this drug every day for a month or more.

READ THIS NEXT: I’m a Pharmacist, and This Is the Medication I Always Warn Patients About.

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Bayo Curry-Winchell, MD, Urgent Care Medical Director and Physician at Carbon Health and Saint Mary’s Hospital, shared with Best Life, “As an urgent care and family medicine physician, I often recommend a short course of ibuprofen to my patients because it can help alleviate symptoms such as fever, headache, and/or body aches. However, taking the drug for a prolonged time can cause you to develop serious complications.” One of those is tinnitus, or ringing in the ear. Curry-Winchell says tinnitus can be brought about “by ibuprofen reducing the amount of blood that flows to the inner ear.”

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Reema Hammoud, PharmD and AVP of Clinical Pharmacy at Sedgwick, explains that even OTC versions of ibuprofen can lead to serious gastrointestinal problems “like stomach bleed or ulcers.” Ibuprofen is a known factor in the development of open sores on the inside of your stomach, known as peptic ulcers.

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Curry-Winchell also notes the potential for stomach pain as a result of long-term ibuprofen use. “Ibuprofen interferes with the stomach’s ability to digest food, causing damage to the lining of your stomach,” she says. “This can result in symptoms such as nausea, heartburn, constant belching, and stomach cramps.”

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According to GoodRx Health, other potential gastrointestinal side effects of ibuprofen include constipation and diarrhea. “[The] longer you take ibuprofen, the greater your risk is of developing serious GI side effects,” their experts say.

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“Yes, [ibuprofen] can impact your breathing,” Curry-Winchell explains, “by reducing airflow within your respiratory system, especially if you have a condition such as asthma.”

Liver Complications
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Your liver plays a key role in metabolizing ibuprofen in your body, and some studies have shown a small elevation of liver enzymes (which can indicate inflammation or damage) in people who take ibuprofen frequently. While liver toxicity as a result of ibuprofen is not common, according to Hammoud, “for those at risk of liver disease, monitoring and a dose adjustment may be required.”

READ THIS NEXT: I’m a Pharmacist, and This Is the Medication I Always Warn Patients About.

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According to Curry-Winchell, chronic ibuprofen use reduces the amount of blood that gets delivered to the kidneys. “Less blood flow leads to kidney damage and ultimately long-term kidney disease.” Hammoud similarly details, “NSAIDs are primarily excreted through the kidneys, so kidney toxicity is the main concern” when it comes to ibuprofen.

The National Kidney Foundation is clear: long-term use of analgesics (certain pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen “can cause chronic kidney disease known as chronic interstitial nephritis.” If you check the warning labels on OTC ibuprofen, it should tell you not to use the medicine longer than 10 days for pain (or three days for a fever). This is especially true for anyone with decreased kidney function.

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It might sound counterintuitive, but ibuprofen can actually give you a headache, even though it’s commonly used to help headaches go away. “Rebound headaches” or “overuse headaches” are rare, but can be triggered if you take ibuprofen (or other painkillers) for too many days in a row, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Thankfully, there’s good news: “Medication overuse headaches usually stop when you stop taking pain medication,” their experts write. “It’s tough in the short term, but your doctor can help you beat medication overuse headaches for long-term relief.”

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“Long term use and higher quantities of ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to your organs,” explains Curry-Winchell. “This can lead to elevated blood pressure placing extra stress on the heart and increasing your risks for a heart attack.”

Experts at the University of California San Francisco Health describe the risk like this: “Ibuprofen… can cause marked worsening of existing hypertension (high blood pressure) or development of new high blood pressure. It can also cause… worsening of heart failure, and even heart attack or stroke.” They also point out that ibuprofen has “a black box warning from the FDA that warns of “potentially fatal” cardiovascular events.

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“Ibuprofen is a great medication when used the right way,” says Curry-Winchell. “The drug can help reduce, and sometimes prevent, pain and swelling associated with surgery, and help treat injuries such as sudden back pain when you wake up or an inability to stand after bending in an awkward way.”

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However, for all the reasons listed, it’s not great for your health to use ibuprofen for 30 days in a row to treat the same pain. Hammoud explains, “Chronic use of most medication is not ideal. The idea is always for treatment to be the lowest dosage of a medication taken for the shortest duration of time possible.”

When long-term medication is needed, the best course of action is to move forward under the guidance of your healthcare provider. “[Long]-term use of a prescription NSAID is okay as long as the patient is being monitored,” Hammoud says, explaining that often those who have to take NSAIDs for an extended period of time can be given a proton-pump inhibitor like Prevacid or Prilosec, “which coat the stomach and help to mitigate side effects.”

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.