Ibuprofen vs. Ketorolac: Comparing NSAIDs for Migraine Relief

Ibuprofen vs. Ketorolac: Comparing NSAIDs for Migraine Relief


As someone who has personally struggled with migraine attacks, I understand the importance of finding the right medication for relief. In this article, we will compare two commonly used NSAIDs, Ibuprofen and Ketorolac, to help you make an informed decision about which option may work best for your migraine attacks.

Understanding NSAIDs

NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are a class of medications commonly used for pain relief. When it comes to migraine attacks, certain NSAIDs have proven to be effective in reducing the intensity of the headache and relieving associated symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at Ibuprofen and Ketorolac.


Ibuprofen is a widely available over-the-counter NSAID that many people turn to for migraine relief. It works by reducing inflammation and pain signals, providing quick relief from migraine symptoms. The recommended dosage for migraine attacks typically ranges from 200mg to 400mg, taken every 4-6 hours as needed. However, it is important to follow the specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the packaging.

For example, John, a 32-year-old man, regularly uses Ibuprofen to manage his migraine attacks. He finds that taking a dosage of 400mg at the onset of a migraine provides effective relief within a couple of hours. However, he avoids exceeding the recommended daily dosage to minimize the risk of potential side effects.


Ketorolac, on the other hand, is a prescription-only NSAID that may offer stronger pain-relieving effects compared to Ibuprofen. It is often used for short-term management of moderate to severe pain, including migraine attacks. Ketorolac is available in both oral and injectable forms, with the proper administration guided by a healthcare professional. Due to its strength, caution is advised with long-term use, and it is typically not recommended for extended periods.

Effectiveness of Ibuprofen for Migraine Relief

While Ibuprofen may not be suitable for everyone, it has been widely used and proven effective for many individuals in managing migraine attacks. The quick onset of action and availability over-the-counter make it a convenient option for mild to moderate migraine attacks.

For example, Alice, a 35-year-old woman, frequently experiences mild to moderate migraine attacks. She finds that taking Ibuprofen at the onset of her migraine helps alleviate the pain and reduce the duration of the attack. She follows the recommended dosage and finds that it provides effective relief for her specific migraine condition.

Effectiveness of Ketorolac for Migraine Relief

Ketorolac, as a prescription NSAID, has the potential to offer stronger pain relief compared to Ibuprofen. It may be more suitable for individuals who experience severe or debilitating migraine attacks that are not effectively managed by over-the-counter options.

For instance, Mark, a 40-year-old man, frequently experiences severe migraine attacks that significantly impact his daily life. He finds that Ketorolac provides him significant relief from the intense pain and accompanying symptoms when other medications have proven less effective. He ensures proper administration by following his healthcare provider’s instructions and recognizes the importance of caution with long-term use.

Side Effects and Safety Considerations

Both Ibuprofen and Ketorolac come with potential side effects, as is the case with most medications. It is important to be aware of these potential risks and consider them when making a decision about which NSAID to use for migraine relief.

Common side effects of both Ibuprofen and Ketorolac include indigestion, stomach pain, and the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. The risk of bleeding is particularly important to consider, especially for individuals with certain medical conditions or those taking blood-thinning medications. It is crucial to discuss your medical history and any potential risks with your healthcare provider.

Consultation with Healthcare Provider

When it comes to managing migraine attacks and choosing the right medication, consulting with a healthcare provider is essential. They have the expertise to evaluate your specific needs and medical history to determine which NSAID may be the most suitable option for your migraine attacks.

During the consultation, consider asking questions such as:

  • Which NSAID would be most suitable for my migraine attacks?
  • Are there any contraindications or precautions specific to my health?
  • What is the recommended dosage and frequency for migraine treatment?

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Are Ibuprofen and Ketorolac the only NSAIDs used for migraine relief?

No, there are other NSAIDs, such as Naproxen and Aspirin, that are also commonly used for migraine relief. However, Ibuprofen and Ketorolac are frequently chosen options due to their effectiveness and availability.

2. Can I take Ibuprofen and Ketorolac together for migraine relief?

No, it is generally not recommended to take multiple NSAIDs together unless specifically advised by your healthcare provider. Combining NSAIDs can increase the risk of side effects, including gastrointestinal issues and bleeding.

3. Can I use Ibuprofen or Ketorolac for all types of migraine attacks?

The suitability of Ibuprofen and Ketorolac for your migraine attacks may depend on various factors, including the severity and specific symptoms of your migraine attacks. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

4. Can I use NSAIDs for preventive treatment of migraine attacks?

NSAIDs are mainly used for acute relief of migraine attacks rather than preventive treatment. There are other medications specifically designed for migraine prevention that your healthcare provider may recommend based on your individual needs.

5. Can I take NSAIDs if I have a history of stomach ulcers?

If you have a history of stomach ulcers or gastrointestinal issues, it is important to discuss this with your healthcare provider before taking NSAIDs. They can evaluate the risks and benefits and suggest alternatives if necessary.

6. Are there any lifestyle changes that can help in managing migraine attacks?

Alongside medication, lifestyle changes such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, managing stress, staying hydrated, and avoiding triggers like certain foods or bright lights, may help in managing migraine attacks. It is important to work with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive migraine management plan.

7. Can I switch between Ibuprofen and Ketorolac for migraine relief?

Switching between different NSAIDs for migraine relief should be done under the guidance of a healthcare provider. They can assess the appropriateness of switching and provide recommendations based on your specific needs and medical history.

8. How long can I safely take Ibuprofen for migraine attacks?

Long-term, regular use of Ibuprofen for migraine attacks should be discussed with a healthcare provider to ensure safety and efficacy. They can provide guidance on duration and evaluate if other preventive treatments or options are more suitable for your needs.

9. Is it safe to use Ketorolac as a long-term solution for migraine attacks?

No, Ketorolac is typically not recommended for long-term use due to its potential side effects and risks. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to identify an appropriate and sustainable long-term management plan for your migraine attacks.

10. Can NSAIDs completely cure migraine attacks?

No, NSAIDs cannot completely cure migraine attacks. They provide temporary relief from the symptoms of migraine attacks. For long-term management and prevention of migraine attacks, it is important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.


While Ibuprofen and Ketorolac are both NSAIDs that can provide relief for migraine attacks, they have distinct differences. Ibuprofen is easily accessible over-the-counter, suitable for mild to moderate headaches, whereas Ketorolac offers stronger pain relief and requires a prescription. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider to determine which option is the most appropriate for your individual needs. Remember, personalized treatment is key to effectively managing migraine attacks and improving your quality of life.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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