Ibuprofen…Smart choice or not?

August 15, 2008 at 7:12 pm | Posted in General Running Information | Leave a comment

A lot of runners think that taking an over-the-counter pain killer is a good thing to do, whether it is taken post-workout or during a race. The thinking is that because it is an anti-inflammatory, it will decrease the inflammation in the body caused by hard workouts and decrease pain/discomfort felt in the joints and muscles. While in theory it makes sense, in reality it is not a smart idea. Advil is a drug and like any drug, there are negative side effects.  

One potential side effect of ibuprofen is damage to the lining of the stomach and to the kidneys.  They interfere with the kidney’s ability to regulate itself. When dehydrated, which is often the case in a race or long run, the toxicity of the ibuprofen increases and can lead to kidney failure.

When muscles heal from the stress of a hard workout, they are larger and stronger. Damaged muscles release a healing prostaglandin called Cox-2, which causes muscle growth and increased strength. Ibuprofen blocks Cox-2 and therefore will delay or inhibit muscle growth. Pain medicines may make you feel better, but at the cost of interfering with the strength gains you are working to achieve. Not a desirable result to a runner or someone trying to build up muscle.

Generally, I don’t think use of ibuprofen or any of the other OTC pain killers for prevention is advisable. There are other ways to fight inflammation and decrease pain naturally.

Some alternate treatments for sore muscles include ice, self-massage, rest, stretching, and holistic arnica gel. These can be just as, if not more, helpful than ibuprofen after workouts and training runs, but won’t prevent muscle growth and strength gains.

Another way to fight inflammation is through nutrition. Check out the anti-inflammatory diet.


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