The Side Effects of Ibuprofen and Exercise

If you're popping anti-inflammatories before your workout, make sure you know about the negative consequences

Credit: iStock / miflipo

Ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug widely use by athletes to manage mild to moderate pain, can be harmful

If you’re regularly taking ibuprofen before exercise to prevent inflammation, make sure you research the side effects

If an agent can produce biological good, it can surely cause harm, too.

It’s always wise to remember that only two kinds of biologically active agents are out there: those that we know can cause some harm, and those for which the harm has not yet been discovered.

The Negative Consequences of Ibuprofen and Exercise

The latest example of belated findings of harm comes from a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, in which Dutch researchers took nine healthy volunteers, fed them ibuprofen before a workout (a widely used, seemingly “safe” tactic followed by millions of runners and athletes because pre-race ibuprofen “prevents” inflammation, thus presumably lessening pain, and allowing for a harder workout or better performance).

Researchers then measured “leakage” in the small bowel, a known deleterious consequence of both taking anti-inflammatories and of doing exercise.

I’ll let the lead researcher tell you the conclusions: “. . . ibuprofen aggravates exercise-induced small intestinal injury” and “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory consumption by athletes is not harmless and should be discouraged.”

Act Like a Doctor, and “Do No Harm” to Yourself

The first (and most important) mantra that all doctors learn is: “First, do no harm.”

Doctors most commonly tap into this belief when suggesting a drug they’re not completely sure about. Doctors will often try to find non-medication options, or at least inform the patient about the common pros and cons of the medication, so the patient can decide whether the drug’s risks justify the potential benefits.

So what baffles me is why so many otherwise intelligent people don’t follow that same mantra when they act as their own doctor.

So, if you’re one of the millions of athletes, especially a purely recreational one taking anti-inflammatories as a “preventive,” you might want to adopt that mantra: First, do no harm — even if your mom never made you go to med school.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.