Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 19, 2024 ·  3 min read

The Side Effects of Ibuprofen You May Not Be Aware Of

When you have a headache, what do you do? I’d hazard a guess that you take some kind of painkiller, such as ibuprofen. How about joint pain or muscle aches? Very likely the same thing. Most of us turn to over-the-counter painkillers regularly to quickly take care of common aches and pains. Unfortunately, these medications such as ibuprofen have side effects that are more dangerous than we might think. Commonly used painkillers like ibuprofen pose a risk of heart failure, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. This 2016 study sheds light on the potential side effects of non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and their link to heart failure.

Ibuprofen Side Effects: The Study

The research, led by a team from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, analyzed data from nearly 10 million NSAID users across the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany who began treatment between 2000 and 2010. The results indicated that individuals who had taken any NSAID within the past 14 days had a 19% increased likelihood of being admitted to the hospital for heart failure compared to those who had used NSAIDs at any previous point in time. Specific NSAIDs like diclofenac, ibuprofen, and naproxen were found to elevate the risk of heart failure, with varying percentages of risk associated with each drug. (1)

Read More: 6 Types of Medications That Can Potentially Harm Your Kidneys

Implications of the Study

The study’s findings highlight the potential dangers of commonly consumed NSAIDs in increasing the risk of heart failure. This is especially when taken at high doses or over an extended period of time. The risk, as the study found, increased for both people with and without pre-existing heart conditions. With cardiovascular health concerns being a significant public health issue, the study emphasizes the need for caution when using these painkillers, particularly in patients with existing heart conditions or those at high risk of heart disease.

It is important to note, however, that if you are a generally healthy person who only takes an NSAID every once in a while, you are probably okay. Where this does apply to even the healthiest people is in extreme cases. For example, experts warn people doing extreme endurance events, such as ultra marathons, against taking NSAIDs before, during, and even too-soon after the event. This is because these events already put your body (and heart) under an extreme amount of stress. For the regular person doing a regular amount of exercise, however, this isn’t such a big risk. (2)

Recommendations for Taking NSAIDs

While it is best to avoid taking these medications only when necessary, there are times where we do need them. When it comes to NSAID usage, it is essential to consider the necessity of such medications. NSAIDs are often used to manage pain and inflammation, primarily in individuals with conditions like arthritis. However, considering the associated risks, it is recommended to use NSAIDs only when necessary and at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration. Individuals should discuss their treatment plan with their healthcare provider, especially if they have concerns about their cardiovascular health.

Alternatives to Painkillers

For those looking to manage pain without the potential risks of NSAIDs, alternative treatments can be explored. Options such as physical therapy, acupuncture, heat or cold therapy, and dietary changes can help alleviate pain and inflammation without resorting to medication. Additionally, incorporating exercises like yoga or meditation can provide relief from chronic pain and improve overall well-being.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, the study published in the British Medical Journal draws attention to the side effects of NSAIDs, particularly ibuprofen, in increasing the risk of heart failure. As with any medication, it is crucial to weigh the benefits against potential risks and use NSAIDs judiciously. By considering alternative pain management strategies and discussing treatment options with healthcare providers, individuals can prioritize their health and well-being while minimizing the risks associated with NSAID use.

Read More: The Dangers of NSAIDs: Risks and Alternatives


  1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and risk of heart failure in four European countries: nested case-control study.” BMJ. Andrea Arfè, et al. September 28, 2016.
  2. Ultra-trail : anti-inflammatoires, attention danger !.” UTrail. Dans Santé. 2021.