As the world battles an opioid crisis, doctors have long sought for alternatives to treat pain. As terrible as it is to lose tens of thousands of people each, chronic pain like arthritis hasn’t disappeared, and those suffering are looking for means of treating it. Unfortunately, for some who would be good candidates for opioid therapy, others who abuse the drug or have developed substance use disorders (SUDs) as a direct result of prescription opiates make it much harder for doctors to consider that route. 

Data revealed by the National Arthritis Data Workgroup demonstrates how prevalent arthritis is throughout the United States. The information compiled also shows the burden we can expect from it in the future. An estimated 52.5 million people, equating to 22 percent of the population, have arthritis or another rheumatic condition a doctor has diagnosed. 

We once thought it was an ailment only found in the elderly, but statistics show that 7.3 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 44 are struggling with it. Another 30.3 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64, with the remainder, 49.7 percent, affecting older adults over age 65. The data goes further and expects by 2030, 67 million people age 18 and over will be diagnosed with arthritis.

As demonstrated above, it’s a condition that affects a vast majority of the population and will continue doing so in the coming years. According to the Mayo Clinic, when it comes to treating arthritis, opioids are not the first choice for treating the condition. However, when all other avenues have been explored, it may be the last option. Leading up to that point, doctors recommend medications like meloxicam, ibuprofen, or a combination of the two. If your doctor has suggested using these medications, you may wonder if it’s safe and what the dangers of mixing them are. Let’s take a more in-depth look below.

What Is Meloxicam?

Meloxicam, also known by its brand name Mobic, is a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and moderate-to-severe pain. The drug can be taken alone or in conjunction with other medications to potentiate its effects. The drug should not be used in children that weigh less than 132 pounds. 

Side Effects of Meloxicam

As you’d expect with all medication, there are potential side effects with use. You must speak to your doctor before taking the drug to ensure it’s right for you. If you experience any of the following side effects, you must stop using meloxicam and call your doctor right away. The possible side effects of meloxicam use include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Any type of skin rash
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Swelling
  • Tarry or bloody stools
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Coughing up blood or vomit with the consistency of coffee grounds
  • Exhaustion
  • Itching
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes, known as jaundice
  • Unusually cold hands or feet
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Unusual tiredness, even after a good night’s rest
  • The inability to produce urine
  • Swelling in your ankles, hands, or feet

You must seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the symptoms we’ve listed above. If it’s severe, get to an emergency room right away.

While the symptoms we’ve listed above are less common, they can occur. However, the symptoms listed below are the most common, and they include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Cold or flu symptoms
  • Gas

You should always report your symptoms to the treating physician and let them know if these bother you or don’t get better with time. 

What Is Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) designed to treat hormones in our bodies responsible for inflammation and pain. The primary difference between the two is that ibuprofen is over-the-counter, whereas meloxicam can only be obtained from your doctor. Ibuprofen has more uses, including reducing fever, treating toothaches, headaches, menstrual cramps, or minor injuries. Doctors will also recommend it for mild arthritis pain.

How Are Meloxicam and Ibuprofen Similar?

Both of these medications are generic versions with different brand names but are used to treat pain. They are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the conditions listed below:

  • Gout
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis

While meloxicam is approved by the FDA to treat rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, it has off-label uses for gout and gout flare-ups. NSAID drugs work in our bodies to prevent it from creating specific chemical signals, which carry messages like telling it when blood vessels should expand, and when platelets should clump together to let it know it’s in pain.  

The goal of drugs like ibuprofen and meloxicam is to stop these chemicals and the sensation of pain. They can also reduce inflammation, swelling, and tenderness, leading to quicker healing in some tissues.

How Are Ibuprofen and Meloxicam Different?

One of the primary differences between the two of these drugs is that meloxicam is available only with a prescription, while ibuprofen can be obtained anywhere it’s sold. If you have existing stomach problems, you should avoid taking ibuprofen as it weakens the lining of your stomach over time. NSAIDs also reduce blood flow to our kidneys, so people with kidney issues should also avoid these drugs. 

Can Meloxicam and Ibuprofen Be Used Together?

If you’re in severe pain from your arthritis, you might wonder if using these two drugs together can offer some relief. While you can take them together without any inherent dangers, it won’t provide the added benefit you might be expecting. You should only use these drugs together if your doctors instruct you to because taking them together is only appropriate on specific occasions. 

Many people use ibuprofen without understanding that meloxicam is a similar type of drug. Unfortunately, if you’re searching for more pain control, you’ll need to speak with your doctor about taking a more potent medication in a different class. It could mean other over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or opioid pain relievers if you’ve exhausted all other resources. 

Side Effects of Using Meloxicam and Ibuprofen Together

As was mentioned above, using these drugs together will not increase your pain relief. When used together, you’ll increase the chances you have an adverse side effect. The most likely side effect you’ll encounter is damage to your stomach or kidneys, for the reasons we touched on. If you’ve been using these drugs together and you’re worried about damage, you should pay attention to the symptoms below:

  • Headache
  • Gas or bloating
  • Cloudy, discolored, or blood in the urine
  • Inability or painful urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Pain in the upper right portion of your stomach
  • Swelling of the feet, abdomen, lower legs, or ankles

Is Meloxicam or Ibuprofen Better for Arthritis Pain?

Meloxicam is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat specific types of arthritis, including RA and OA. It works by decreasing inflammation, therefore reducing pain, swelling, and stiffness. According to VeryWellHealth, it’s also used in some cases to treat ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis confined to the spine. 

Although meloxicam is considered the more potent of the two, studies about its effects in treating back pain showed ibuprofen and meloxicam boasted similar pain reduction effects. When compared to placebos for lower back pain in a controlled study, NSAIDs were shown to be more effective. However, they also found there were no efficacy differences between different NSAIDs, meaning meloxicam and ibuprofen were just as effective in treating arthritis pain. 

Although both drugs are adequate options in treating pain and joint inflammation, there are risks in taking both. If you’re battling arthritis pain, speak to your doctor about alternatives. If these drugs aren’t helping you and producing undesirable effects, you may need to use something else. However, you must always be careful and get your doctor’s approval before stopping the prescription medication and starting another. 

As was mentioned at the start of this article, opioid pain medication is causing severe effects globally, so please only consider this if nothing else has helped your pain. You’ll only be trading in one problem for another.

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