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Tramadol VS. Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen is probably one of the most used pain relief medications out there. In our pain management series, we shall compare Tramadol Vs. Ibuprofen since a lot of times, they are used in combination.

Pain is an essential body function. It let us know and most importantly, it lets the brain know that there is something wrong in the body. Our brain cannot look everywhere in the body, but it keeps an account of all the things by means of hormones.

For example, if our body lacks energy, it releases insulin, which processes carbohydrates to produce energy. The presence of insulin also lets the brain know that we need energy. Therefore, our brain creates the sensation of hunger.

Pain works the same way. If there is a cut or damage to any part of the body, a hormone named prostaglandin flows to the damaged area. The primary function of prostaglandin is to constrict the blood vessels around a damaged area to prevent blood loss. This causes swelling around the damage. It also increases the body temperature to prevent any infections. Therefore, we experience fever.

The secondary purpose is to signal the brain that there is a damage. The brain then creates the sensation of pain and takes the necessary steps to repair the damage. We have discussed the functions of prostaglandin in our Tramadol Vs. Tylenol article.

Tramadol Vs. Ibuprofen: How do they work?

Here is when things get really interesting. Tramadol, an opioid-like pain reliever, works by changing the signals to the brain. It does not stop the flow of prostaglandin. As a result, the pain subsides, but since prostaglandin is present, the brain still gets to go and start repairing the damaged part.

Ibuprofen is an NSAID (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). It stops pain by killing or reducing prostaglandins. This way, the constricted blood vessels reopen, which reestablished blood flow. This reduces inflammation and fever.

The drawback of Ibuprofen, therefore, is that it can reduce pain, but it won’t help repair anything. Killing prostaglandin means that the brain stops receiving the signal. On the other hand, Tramadol is perfectly suited for repair operations. It lets the prostaglandin function while disrupting the pain sensation.

Tramadol Vs. Ibuprofen Use

As we understand from the previous section, Tramadol can work with prostaglandin. It is an opioid type of pain reliever so it can handle moderate to severe pains. Therefore, you may use Tramadol for almost any kind of pain:

  • Headache
  • Toothache
  • Major cuts or injuries
  • Post-surgical pains
  • Back pain
  • Migraine
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritic pains

On the other hand, the use of Ibuprofen is limited. Following are a few situations Ibuprofen is suitable:

  • Very small cuts
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Toothache
  • Acute back pain
  • Fever and associated body pain
  • Menstrual pain

Remember to never use Ibuprofen after a major cut or injury. If all the prostaglandins are removed from the area, and blood flow is restored, the patient may bleed out. That’s why you never see doctors prescribe Ibuprofen after a major surgery. Opioids are more common as they keep the prostaglandins flowing and give the brain the opportunity to repair.

In Combination

Tramadol and Ibuprofen can be used in combination during the recovery of a patient from surgery or injuries, but the dosages have to be carefully considered. Your doctor will decide that.

It’s more common, however, to use Tylenol (Acetaminophen) rather than Ibuprofen together with an opioid like Tramadol. Acetaminophen works slightly differently than Ibuprofen.


Ibuprofen is an NSAID and an Over-The-Counter (OTC) medication. You can buy it from any pharmacy or even in grocery stores. It does not require prescriptions.

On the other hand, Tramadol is an opioid-like medication. I say ‘opioid-like’ because it is not a real opioid like Oxycodone. Yet, since it acts like an opioid, it is a controlled substance (Schedule IV). Although low, there is a possibility of addiction if Tramadol is used for a long time.

Therefore, you can’t just get Tramadol from a regular pharmacy without a prescription. However, due to the spread of the internet and online pharmacies, you can find it online.

The Takeaways

Ibuprofen works best for the types of pains where there are no cuts involved. Although it doesn’t heal the pain, it provides comfort to the patient. It’s best to use it with acute and non-cut-related pains.

Tramadol is for severe and chronic pains that may involve major cuts. Among all the opioids, Tramadol is a lot safer when it comes to addiction issues. It is not a real opioid so it doesn’t have that strong pull.

That concludes our discussion on Tramadol Vs. Ibuprofen.

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