What formats and dosages does Diclofenac come in?

Like many medications, the prescription pain reliever diclofenac is available in several different formulations, formats and dosages. However, unlike the NSAIDs that you might be used to taking over the counter, such as Advil or Aspirin, the different formulations of diclofenac are not interchangeable and are prescribed by doctors specifically to relieve symptoms in some conditions, but not others.

For that reason, it is imperative that you follow your doctor’s prescription and instructions exactly, and contact them if you have any questions or doubts about how to take your diclofenac medication.


The three main forms of delivery for diclofenac is oral, topical and intravenous. Most patients will be prescribed some oral form of this pain reliever. However, the topical form is sometimes prescribed to patients with certain types of joint pain or other conditions, such as actinic keratosis.

This NSAID medicine is usually prescribed as either diclofenac sodium or diclofenac potassium, although a third formulation called “free acid” is also available. This simply means that there is no cation (positive ion, such as sodium or potassium) to create a salt from the diclofenac, so that it retains its original form as an acid.


These formulations are NOT considered to be bioequivalent, which means they do not work the same way in the body. Because of this, they are not interchangeable, and if your doctor has prescribed “diclofenac potassium”, for example, it can NOT be substituted with “diclofenac sodium”, even if the dosage is the same, unless your doctor specifically says that it is okay.

Oral diclofenac formulations and dosages

Your doctor may prescribe one of several different types of formulations of oral diclofenac. The preparations available on the market today include tablets, capsules and oral solution packets. In turn, the tablets may have different properties depending on how they are supposed to release the drug into your system. Diclofenac tablets may be:

  • Immediate release
  • Enteric-coated
  • Delayed-release
  • Extended-release


The liquid capsules and oral solution packets are usually used as a type of immediate release delivery for diclofenac.

Different formulations of diclofenac are available in different dosages. Your doctor will prescribe the one that they think is best for your case.

Diclofenac sodium: 18 mg, 25 mg, 35 mg, 50 mg, 75 mg, 100 mg

Diclofenac potassium: 25 mg, 50 mg

Oral solution packets: 50 mg

Note that diclofenac oral solution packets are usually only prescribed to patients who suffer from migraine attacks. The medicine should only be used once a migraine headache attack has started. It is not effective as a prophylactic treatment (i.e. preventing migraines) and not indicated for the treatment of some other types of headache, such as cluster headaches.

Topical applications of diclofenac

Diclofenac is sometimes prescribed as a topical treatment to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and occasionally skin conditions like actinic keratosis. It is available as a gel or liquid, which is applied topically to the affected area or areas according to your doctor’s instructions.

Topical diclofenac gel: 1%, 3% gel

Topical diclofenac liquid: 1.5%, 2%

Both topical forms of this pain reliever should be applied to clean, dry, healthy skin. After application, the area should not be covered with any bandages, and you will need to wait before covering with clothing or gloves and before bathing, according to your doctor’s instructions. Usually, you can put clothing on the treated area after about 10 minutes, and bathe after approximately one hour.

Diclofenac gel

To help you apply the correct amount of diclofenac gel, the medicine may come with a plastic card marked with lines. This is called a dosing card. You will usually squeeze the gel directly onto this card to measure out the dose prescribed by your doctor. The card should be washed and dried after each use.

The liquid version of diclofenac is measured using a dropper or a pump. Your doctor will tell you how many drops or pumps to apply to the treatment area.

In both cases, you should use your hands to rub the medication over the treatment area evenly. You should wash your hands thoroughly after you finish applying topical diclofenac unless you are treating your hands, in which case you should follow your doctor’s instructions about bathing or showering (usually, wait at least one hour before washing).

Intravenous (IV) diclofenac treatment

This NSAID medication may occasionally be given intravenously (i.e. through an IV line) in a hospital or clinical setting. However, this delivery method of diclofenac is rarely used in a home setting and almost never administered by the patients themselves.

The standard adult dosage for IV diclofenac is 37.5 mg/mL over 15 seconds every 6 hours as needed for pain. Depending on the circumstances of your hospitalization, your doctor may adjust this dose up or down as they see fit. For example, a patient with liver disease is sometimes given a lower dose of intravenous diclofenac.

Diclofenac potassium

Generally, the maximum adult dose for IV diclofenac, as well as some oral preparations, is 150 mg per day. Nonetheless, you should not exceed the dosage prescribed to you by your doctor even if it falls below this maximum.

As always, it is extremely important to follow your doctor’s instructions for taking diclofenac sodium, diclofenac potassium, or whichever formulation you have been prescribed. This article is for educational purposes only, and is meant to illustrate that you should not substitute one type of diclofenac for another one, because they may not be equivalent. Using the wrong type of diclofenac can be ineffective at relieving your pain and may cause dangerous side effects.

Remember, the information on this website is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


What are the side effects of Diclofenac?

Like all medicines, the prescription NSAID pain reliever diclofenac sodium (and its other formulations as well) has a risk of side effects. Some side effects are minor and don’t require medical attention, while others can be very serious.

Many of diclofenac’s side effects are similar to those of other NSAID medications (such as ibuprofen or aspirin). In this article, you will find some of the most common side effects of this drug, organized by minor and serious side effects. We have also included some symptoms of diclofenac overdose. At the end of the article, you will find some tips that may help you avoid or minimize uncomfortable side effects.

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Minor side effects of diclofenac

These side effects are not considered serious and generally don’t require medical attention. However, if they are very severe, interfering with your quality of life, or if something just doesn’t feel right, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor. Sometimes, these side effects are temporary and will become less severe or go away entirely as your body gets used to taking diclofenac.

Minor side effects of oral diclofenac (tablets, dissolvable powder, etc.) may include:

  • An unexplained ringing or buzzing sound in your ears
  • Hearing loss
  • Bloated feeling due to gas in the stomach or intestines
  • Flatulence (passing gas)
  • Muscle weakness or loss of strength

Serious side effects of diclofenac

The following are considered potentially medically serious side effects of diclofenac. Experiencing some of these side effects is not necessarily cause for alarm, but it should definitely be brought to your doctor’s attention.

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Major gastrointestinal side effects of oral diclofenac

Because it is an NSAID medication, diclofenac has the risk of causing potentially severe gastrointestinal side effects. These can occur as a result of the medicine weakening the protective lining of the stomach. Contact a healthcare professional right away if you experience:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, burning or bloating
  • Excessive belching
  • Chest pain or feeling of indigestion/heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool or black, tarry stools (may indicate stomach bleeding)
  • Vomiting blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds (may indicate stomach bleeding)
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

Major circulatory side effects of diclofenac

NSAID drugs like diclofenac may act as a blood thinner or anticoagulant. If you experience any of these bleeding and clotting related side effects, contact a healthcare professional right away:

  • Increased bleeding time (i.e. blood takes longer than usual to clot)
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Pale skin

Other major side effects of diclofenac

Some other serious side effects of this medication may indicate a problem with kidney function or an allergic reaction to diclofenac. If you experience any of these side effects while taking diclofenac, contact a healthcare professional:

  • Cloudy urine
  • Decreased urine volume
  • Inability to concentrate urine (large volumes of clear, dilute urine)
  • Swelling
  • Itching skin or rash
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Labored breathing
  • Dizziness

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Symptoms of diclofenac overdose

Never take more diclofenac than your doctor has instructed. If you miss a dose, do not try to compensate by taking a double dose the next time. Be on the lookout for signs of potential diclofenac overdose. If you experience any of these symptoms of overdose, get emergency medical attention right away:

  • Agitation, irritability or hostility
  • Depression or nervousness
  • Unusual sleepiness, drowsiness, or sluggishness
  • Confusion or stupor
  • Change in consciousness or loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • Blurred vision or change in your ability to see colors
  • Trouble breathing, irregular or shallow breathing
  • Very slow or very fast heartbeat
  • Pain, tightness or discomfort in the chest, throat or upper stomach
  • Pale or blue lips, fingernails or skin
  • Puffiness or swelling of the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, ankles or hands
  • Muscle twitching
  • Seizures
  • Rapid weight gain

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Tips to reduce diclofenac side effects

It may be possible to reduce your risk of experiencing some of the side effects of diclofenac, or to reduce their severity once you have experienced them. Here are some tips to avoid some of the side effects of diclofenac:

  1. Before taking diclofenac, inform your doctor of all medical conditions you have, including medication allergies, as well as all other medicines and supplements you are taking, even over-the-counter or natural remedies.
  2. Always follow your doctor’s instructions for taking diclofenac. Do not take more than you are prescribed and wait the full time interval before taking your next dose.
  3. When taking oral diclofenac, drink a full glass of water.
  4. Avoid lying down for 30 minutes after taking a dose of diclofenac.
  5. If your doctor or pharmacist has instructed you to take diclofenac with food, always follow these directions.
  6. If your doctor did not instruct you to take this medicine with food, doing so may help reduce gastrointestinal upset.
  7. If your doctor told you to take diclofenac on an empty stomach and you are experiencing stomach pain, talk to them about the possibility of taking this medication with a small snack.
  8. Use caution with vitamins and supplements that may make it harder for you to stop bleeding if injured (e.g. vitamin E). Always let your doctor know of all medications, vitamins and supplements you are taking before starting diclofenac.
  9. If you have been prescribed diclofenac on an “as-needed” basis, such as for migraine attacks, do not take the medicine when you don’t need it, as this can increase side effects in general and cause NSAID rebound headaches.
  10. Do not take other NSAID medicines while taking diclofenac, even over-the-counter (e.g. ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin], naproxen [Aleve], aspirin, etc.).diclofenac

Sometimes, you can experience side effects even if you do everything right. Not everyone will respond well to diclofenac. You should always contact your doctor if you have questions about your dosage, instructions, or any side effects you think you might be experiencing. In case of severe reactions such as those described in the “symptoms of overdose” section, get emergency medical help immediately.

Remember, the information on this website is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.



What is the drug Diclofenac used for? Conditions and indications

Diclofenac (usually sold as diclofenac sodium or diclofenac potassium) is an NSAID medication, which stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This puts it in the same family as well-known medicines like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). It won’t come as any surprise, then, that diclofenac is used for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation. However, this drug shouldn’t be used interchangeably with other NSAIDs, and should only be used under your doctor’s supervision and following their instructions.

diclofenac sodium

What is diclofenac used for?

Diclofenac sodium (and other formulations) is given by prescription only to treat the pain and inflammation symptoms resulting from a variety of conditions. Only your doctor can determine if this medicine is appropriate for you. Always consult with your doctor before taking any new medicine or treatment, and make sure you understand diclofenac’s contraindications, drug interactions and side effects.

Diclofenac is sometimes used to treat musculoskeletal pain. Doctors will sometimes prescribe it for pain and inflammation in muscle aches and backaches. It can also be prescribed for post-traumatic pain and inflammation, such as after an operation or in the case of sports injuries, muscle strains, sprains or bruises.

diclofenac sodium

This medicine may also be given to patients suffering from dental pain or TMJ pain.

Oral and topical preparations of diclofenac are often used to manage arthritis pain and joint stiffness, including in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Other uses for diclofenac: PMS cramps and more

This anti-inflammatory pain reliever isn’t limited to musculoskeletal problems, though. Diclofenac sodium is sometimes used to provide symptom relief during gout flare-ups, or when a patient is dealing with kidney stones or gallstones.

Furthermore, one specific formulation of this medicine, sold under the brand name Cataflam, is prescribed for painful menstrual cramps and other symptoms of PMS, such as backaches. It can also be given to patients suffering from endometriosis, a chronic inflammation of the lining of the uterus.

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Can you take diclofenac for headaches and migraines?

When we get a headache, we often reach for the nearest over-the-counter pain reliever without giving it a second thought. Other NSAID medicines, like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, have been used as a headache remedy for many years. So you might think that, because diclofenac is also an NSAID, it can be used the same way. But it’s important to understand that this medicine is not appropriate for certain types of headaches. For that reason, you need to consult with your doctor and make sure you know what kind of headache is causing you to reach for a painkiller.

Diclofenac can be good for: Migraine headache attacks

Migraines are one of those things where you would know if you had one. Still, it’s always a good idea to be clear on the symptoms of a migraine so you can differentiate it from other types of headaches. Some general characteristics of migraines include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • May be associated with certain times in the menstrual cycle
  • May be triggered by certain food or drink
  • May be preceded by an “aura” with temporary changes in vision
  • Tend to last longer (2–72 hours)
  • Usually occur infrequently or with moderate frequency
  • More likely to affect women than men

Generally, someone suffering from a migraine headache will want to seek relief somewhere dark and quiet, without strong smells. These are the kinds of headaches that make you want nothing more than to curl up somewhere dark and sleep until it goes away.

For people who suffer from migraines, a special formulation of diclofenac is available to help nip these beasts in the bud at the first sign. This version of the medicine is sold under the brand name Cambia. It is given as a powder and generally mixed with water to form a solution, and then taken orally (by drinking). The goal is to provide relief as fast as possible.

However, it’s important to realize that diclofenac for migraines is for acute, symptomatic treatment only. It is not effective at preventing migraines that haven’t begun, or at reducing your susceptibility or the number of migraine headache attacks you get.

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Diclofenac should NOT be used for: Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches, like migraines, are extremely painful, often debilitating. But they should NOT be treated with diclofenac, not in tablet form or with the oral suspension used to treat migraines.

How do you know if your headache is a cluster headache? These types of headaches are generally characterized by these traits:

  • Pain confined to one side of the head
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • May be mistaken for a sinus headache
  • Don’t last as long as migraines
  • Recur frequently over a period of weeks or months (cluster)
  • Causes and triggers are unknown
  • More likely to affect men than women

These headaches present a sharp, burning pain. People describe cluster headaches as feeling like a red-hot iron poker has been jabbed through their eye. Unlike migraines, someone suffering from a cluster headache will usually not want to hide in a dark, quiet room. Rather, they may feel agitated and restless, finding relief by pacing back and forth or even screaming.

Diclofenac is not an appropriate treatment for cluster headache pain. However, relief for this condition is available, usually in the form of oxygen mask treatment, although certain injectable medications or nasal sprays may also be used.

How does diclofenac work in the body?

Like other NSAID medications, diclofenac sodium reduces pain and inflammation by interfering with the body’s production of substances called prostaglandins.

When the body is injured or damaged in some way, one of its natural responses in starting the healing process is to cause inflammation and pain. For example, a sprained ankle may show redness and swelling (signs of the inflammatory response), and obviously also hurts a lot. One of the things responsible for these inflammation and pain symptoms is a class of molecules called prostaglandins, which are naturally produced by the body.

diclofenac sodium

The chemical reactions that the body uses to synthesize these prostaglandins require enzymes to speed things up. NSAID drugs, including diclofenac, work by blocking some of these enzymes. The enzymes COX-1 and COX-2 are inhibited by most NSAID medicines, although research suggests that COX-2 plays the main role in the pain relief, anti-inflammatory and fever reducing properties of these drugs.

The NSAIDs that also inhibit COX-1 seem to have a greater risk of gastrointestinal side effects, such as ulcers and stomach bleeding. This includes diclofenac, which is why it’s important to understand possible side effects and contraindications and always follow your doctor’s instructions when taking this medication.

Remember, the information on this website is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.