Ibuprofen bottle, triggers atrial fibrillation

Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is on the rise (Open Heart, April 28, 2017). We’re talking about drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Such pain relievers are perceived as quite safe, since they have been available over the counter for decades. But there is growing evidence that prescription NSAIDs like celecoxib, diclofenac and meloxicam, as well as OTC ibuprofen and naproxen, can impact blood pressure. There are also concerns about heart attacks and other cardiovascular complications. The higher the dose the greater the risk, as this reader discovered.

Ibuprofen and High Blood Pressure

Q. My doctor prescribed 800 mg of ibuprofen a couple of times a day for the pain and inflammation of a severely twisted knee. When I took my blood pressure a few weeks later it was 180/96. That’s much higher than my usual 124/76.

That scared me, so I searched your website for answers. I discovered that ibuprofen and high blood pressure can go together. What else can I use for the pain?

Other Options for Pain:

A. Ask your doctor whether topical NSAIDs like diclofenac gel would help your pain without causing hypertension. There is research to suggest that when diclofenac is used as a spray, gel or patch, it is substantially less likely to cause stomach upset or ulcers compared to the oral formulation (British Journal of Sports Medicine, May, 2018).  That doesn’t mean it is safe, just safer than pills.

You can learn more about the advantages of Voltaren Gel at this link.

Since you discovered that you are susceptible to ibuprofen and high blood pressure, you will need to be very especially careful. You will need to monitor your blood pressure even with a topical NSAID. We have heard from readers who report good success, though.

E.B.M. gets her Voltaren Gel without a prescription when traveling:

“I have been buying Voltaren Gel in Germany and Mexico while traveling. It costs usually $10-15 overseas for a large tube. It has worked great for me and my friend who has rheumatoid arthritis and sometimes muscle spasms.

“I don’t use a lot since it is very easily spread (a thin gel). My blood pressure is normal. I would not be without it and was lucky to talk the nurse out of a sample one day.”

Not everyone can tolerate topical NSAIDs, though.

Marilyn developed a bad skin reaction with the prescription NSAID diclofenac:

“My doctor prescribed Voltaren Gel since pain meds upset my stomach. It didn’t upset my stomach, but on the fourth day of applying it, I broke out in a rash all over my arms and legs. I had to stop using it.”

Non-Drug Options for Controlling Pain:

Other options that should not raise your blood pressure include anti-inflammatory herbs such as ashwagandha, boswellia, ginger or turmeric. Bromelain derived from pineapple and Knox gelatin may also be beneficial.

You can learn more about them in our online resource, Alternatives for Arthritis. This eGuide is available for your computer or electronic device at this link. If you prefer a printed book you can hold in your hands, you can find it here.

Share your own story about NSAIDs below in the comment section. If you ever had problems with ibuprofen and high blood pressure please let us know.

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  1. Ron
    Southern California

    Ibuprofen gave me Steven Johnston Syndrome, a terrible thing. I occasionally take aspirin or an Alleve.

  2. carmen
    Florida Panhandle

    I use Biofreeze or Fast Freeze in the spray.
    I have constant shoulder pain HBP and Afib so I don’t like to take pain relievers.
    FYI The spray on Biofreeze has more menthol than the gels or roll on.
    Therefore it works much better and faster.

  3. Wendy Lance
    Huntersville NC

    I would strongly suggest looking into your diet as a way to control inflammation and pain rather than relying on pain meds.

    I changed my diet radically 1 year ago to treat Hashimoto’s but also in the process came across a book – Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry. By changing my diet my tenosynovitis that I had had for 10 years or more resolved within a week, my knee swelling that I had had on a regular basis every 2 weeks resolved. I also check inflammatory levels through the Zonediet.com to help minimize inflammatory levels.

    I am now a strong believer that changing your diet to treat leaky gut and all the diseases and inflammation that go along with it is the way to go!

  4. Jennifer
    Buffalo, NY

    Aspirin in also a NSAID. Does it raise blood pressure as well? And if it does, would white willow bark (related to aspirin) also? I have been taking a natural tincture for neuropathy which contains white willow bark and my blood pressure has been high (I’m on meds). Any information about it would be great! Thanks for all your articles!

  5. Linda

    I have a question about the Voltaren gel. I was given this for hip pain and I also have back pain. Do you have to rub in on right at the painful spot? This would be very difficult for my back pain as it is such a large area. Or can you rub it in say on your arm and have it absorbed into the body?

    • Lisa H
      Belmont NC

      My neighbor relied on the Voltaren gel for a few years, up until most recently. When I read the side effects to her (she is 88), she stopped using it. Personally, I use in combination, Tumeric, Boswellia, and Devils Claw. The NSAID drugs also deplete gluthathione as well..another reason I won’t use them anymore. It pays to do your own research. We want a quick fix, but it comes with a high price to our health.

  6. Carol

    Yes, in all these articles about NSAIDs, nothing seems to be said about acetaminophen as an alternative and its relation to BP. I realize it’s not in the same category, but what studies have been done about it and its side effects ? I am using one Tylenol 500 mg a day now for back pain. It is effective for me but it does wear off in about 12 hours. Should I be worried about toxicity to liver with one tablet a day? Where do I find your research on acetaminophen ?

    Thank you for your excellent articles on a number of subjects of interest to myself, especially natural remedies.

    • Terry Graedon

      For most people, one tablet a day would be considered safe.

  7. Roberta
    Apple Valley, CA

    Most Doctors don’t know this. They always tell me to take Advil. I have hypertension. I tell them Advil causes high blood pressure, and they say they’ve never heard of that. I’m so glad you wrote about this. Get the word out to Doctors!!

  8. Patsy

    We have also gotten Voltaren Gel while out of the country for about $20. When my husband asked his doctor to write a prescription for him, he went to a big-name pharmacy to pick it up. It was $1000, and he is on Medicare Part D. Needless to say, he doesn’t get it at there.

  9. Ginger
    North Carolina

    My husband’s RA Dr. prescribed Voltaren gel for heel pain and think it helps. His blood pressure is normal. HOWEVER, Silverscript now makes you get ‘approval’ before getting gel. A HUGE PAIN TO ACCOMPLISH!

  10. Mary

    I use BioFreeze. You can purchase the tube at Walmart. My foot dr. sells the tube also. When you put the gel on for the first time. WOW! You have to just rub the gel in. It helps me and my knee.

  11. Darlene

    I have high blood pressure controlled with medication. I was taking Advil for some shoulder pain and my BP spiked over 200/150. My dr advised me not to take it because it did that to some people. On another note, trying turmeric did help but made my reflux terrible!

  12. Sharyn

    I tried the Voltaire’s patch for what was thought to be inflammation of a nerve in my groin area. By the next day, my blood pressure was 200/100. After discontinuing use, it returned to normal. I have since found that all NSAID products cause my blood pressure to go up.

  13. Pamela
    Tampa Bay Florida area

    Arnica was recommended by a friend for my osteoarthritic hip pain. From the first time I applied it to my hips, it helped temporarily relieve my pain. What can you tell me about it?

  14. Mat

    I use Ibufrofen 200 mg for BPH at night to reduce urination. What are my options. Please suggest?

    • Joe Graedon


      There is evidence that ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can reduce nighttime urination (nocturia). The downside is that ibuprofen is probably affecting kidney function in the process. Researchers have speculated that NSAIDs may be affecting urination at night by various mechanisms. They include:

      1) Reducing urine volume at night
      2) reducing muscle tone/contractions
      3) Diminishing urinary sensations in the bladder
      4) Altering sleep patterns to reduce wakefulness

      If NSAIds like ibuprofen reduce blood flow to the kidneys and thereby reduce urine volume, that might not be so good night after night. We especially worry about people who might have some reduced kidney function.

      • Linda

        Hi Joe, I also use ibuprofen at night for my IC. It helps so much. So far BP is only a little elevated and kidneys seem to be ok per my MD, but I do worry about long term damage. Are there any options to help us folks with bladder issues at night?

        • Debbie

          I think it was mentioned on their site about eating raisins at night to help with nighttime urination. Maybe try a search for that!

  15. Terry

    In articles about pain control Ibuprofen and Naproxen are always mentioned as OTC pain killers. What happened to good old aspirin? I’ve used it for years and found it to be a very reliable pain reliever. I don’t swallow handfuls of it, just 2 tablets occasionally. It is inexpensive and causes no stomach problems for me. Ibuprofen caused extreme heartburn for me. It probably is not the answer for extreme, chronic pain, but for occasional use it is very effective, yet it seems to have disappeared from articles about pain relief.

  16. Barbara
    New England

    What about acetominephen and high blood pressure?

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