Miracle cream – the wonders of Ibuprofen Gel

Published 14 January 2018

The year is 2007 and I’m on a walking holiday in the Queyras Alps region of France. It’s a six day walking trip, staying in different villages in the area. The route being followed is one of our tour company’s devising, although consists of a mixture of Grande Randonnée trails.

This is skiing territory. Big hills, big climbs. Each of the six days seems to consist of about a kilometre of ascent, and a kilometre of descent. It’s hard going when you’re not doing it. And by day three I’m having a bit of trouble with my right knee. I can just about cope with going up, but down is a nightmare. Every footstep sends a painful shudder up through my body. It’s horrible. I wince in agony with every foodstep. I just about make it down to our accommodation, but the next day involves being driven by a taxi up very high and about 1.5km of descent. There’s just no way my knee could possibly cope.

It’s the first time I’ve had knee problems when walking. And it won’t be the last. Most recently was when I was in Patterdale for three days.

When I’m doing multiple days on the fells, I need two things. First is the preventer. A pair of walking poles. I’m not a massive fan of using them. They’re a bit cumbersome at times. But, as I learned in France in 2007, they’re a great preventer of problems as they spread your weight around so you put less pressure on your knees. They also slow you down a bit, and that also helps. I have a habit of walking too fast, and sometimes almost jogging downhill. And yes, that puts more pressure on your knees.

The other thing is the “cure”. And it comes in a tube.

Ibuprofen Gel.

Ibuprofen is an non-inflammatory drug. For many people, it will be known as a drug to use to get rid of headaches or menstrual pain. But it’s also used for things like arthritis, and, of course, my knee problems.

With the gel you can just slap it on the affected area. The pain relief is targeted, and pretty rapid. I’ve always been amazed by how quickly it works. When out on the Pennine Way once, my partner Catherine was hit with knee problems. Some Ibuprofen Gel applied and half an hour later she was waking perfectly fine. It’s almost like a miracle cream.

Unfortunately when I was in Patterdale, I had neither poles nor gel. It had been some time (five years!) since I’d been able to spend multiple days walking in fells, and I’d forgotten all about the potential for knee problems. So I hadn’t packed my poles, and whilst I had my first aid kit, the ibuprofen gel that normally sits inside it, was missing.

Thankfully my knee problems in Patterdale were pretty minor. I could just feel the twinge coming on by the end of the day. But it reminded me that if there’s one thing I needed to remember for the future, it was make sure I had some miracle cream with me!

I should state I’m not a doctor and that – obviously – Ibuprofen may not be suitable for everyone. I can’t tell you if it’s right for you. It just works for me. Always read the label, etc etc.


Jimmy Smith

12 July 2020 at 3:34 pm

There is a problem with Ibuprofen gel (Vitamin I:)
for anyone taking Warfarin or the like. It is a no no.

I was recommended Indian Balm by a pharmacist who confirmed with my doctor.
Not having used Ibuprofen gel I have no way to compare but it certainly dies the trick for me.

Alan Prince

25 October 2020 at 11:58 pm

This is a great little article. I’ve tried walking poles recently but I have the same views on them as you do and I almost feel like I’m cheating. I get pain in my left hip despite being relatively young, it’s usually 6-8hrs into a long walk, the ibuprofen gel might just be the ticket. Thank-you.

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