Drugs Q & A

Can You Take Ibuprofen With Tramadol?

Pain is a complex protective mechanism. It is an essential part of evolution that protects the body from danger and harm.  The body has pain receptors that are attached to 2 main types of nerves that detect danger. One nerve type relays messages quickly, causing a sharp, sudden pain. The other relays messages slowly, causing a dull, throbbing pain.

Some areas of the body have more pain receptors than others. For example, the skin has lots of receptors, so it is easy to tell the exact location and type of pain. There are far fewer receptors in the gut, so it is harder to pinpoint the precise location of a stomach ache. If pain receptors in the skin are activated by touching something dangerous (for example something hot or sharp), these nerves send alerts to the spinal cord and then to part of the brain called the thalamus.

Many people will use a pain medicine (analgesic) at some time in their lives. Pain medicines work in various ways. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) are pain medicines that help to reduce inflammation and fever. They do this by stopping chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins cause inflammation, swelling and make nerve endings sensitive, which can lead to pain.  

Prostaglandins also help protect the stomach from stomach acid, which is why these medicines can cause irritation and bleeding in some people. Opioid medicines work in a different way. They change pain messages in the brain, which is why these medicines can be addictive.

Understanding Ibuprofen and Tramadol

Ibuprofen is a medication in the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug class that is used for treating pain, fever, and inflammation. On the other hand, tramadol, sold under the brand name Ultram among others, is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. When taken by mouth in an immediate-release formulation, the onset of pain relief usually begins within an hour. It is also available by injection.

Can you take Ibuprofen with Tramadol?

Research has shown it is safe to take ibuprofen with tramadol for people ages 16 and over. Studies have shown that a combination therapy of low-dose tramadol and an NSAID can prevent the transition from acute low back to chronic back pain. A low-dose tramadol/NSAID combination could decrease the potential for adverse events while preventing acute low back pain from becoming chronic.

However, using ibuprofen with tramadol may increase side effects, which might be more common in older adults and people with chronic health conditions. People who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (other than aspirin) such as ibuprofen may have a higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke than people who do not take these medications. These events may happen without warning and may cause death. This risk may be higher for people who take NSAIDs for a long time. Do not take an NSAID such as ibuprofen if you have recently had a heart attack, unless directed to do so by your doctor. Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has or has ever had heart disease, a heart attack, or a stroke; if you smoke; and if you have or have ever had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Get emergency medical help right away if you experience any of the following symptoms: chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness in one part or side of the body, or slurred speech.

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