Does ibuprofen help if taken before and during exercise?

Ibuprofen (also marketed as Advil and Motrin) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). That means it is an anti-inflammatory without cortison. It is one of the most common and widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain killers.

For adults, the dosage is 400-800 mg/dose three to four times a day (maximum: 3.2 g/day) to be taken by mouth. It should be taken with food or milk to avoid stomach irritation and development of a stomach ulcer. Bleeding from a stomach ulcer can be catastrophic, especially in elderly patients who are on blood thinners and/or Aspirin.

Ibuprofen should not be given to patients who have kidney or liver failure as it is metabolized in the liver and excreted by the kidneys. It reversibly inhibits cyclooxygenase-1 and 2 (COX-1 and 2) enzymes, which results in decreased formation of prostaglandin precursors. It has antipyretic (reduces fever), analgesic (pain killer), and anti-inflammatory properties.

You can feel the effect of the medication within 30-60 minutes. The effect lasts four to six hours.

The effect peaks in one to two hours and half of the drug is eliminated from the body in two to four hours. Preoperative use of ibuprofen at a dose of 400-600 mg every six hours 24 hours before the appointment decreases postoperative swelling and hastens healing time.

Ibuprofen can interfere with the anti-platelet effect of low-dose aspirin (81 mg/day), potentially rendering aspirin less effective when used for cardio-protection and stroke protection. Safer choice in these cases would be to use acetaminophen or prescription diclofenac in place of ibuprofen.

Athletes and people who exercise regularly put lot of stress on their bodies. It affects athlete’s immune system and muscles. Research has shown marathoners who take ibuprofen pills before and during the race displayed significantly more inflammation and other markers of high immune system response afterward than the runners who hadn’t taken anti-inflammatories.

The ibuprofen users also showed signs of mild kidney impairment and, both before and after the race, of low-level endotoxemia, a condition in which bacteria leak from the colon into the bloodstream, says an article in the New York Times.

Athletes take these anti-inflammatory pills before the event to prevent pain during and after exercise. But it does not work that way. In fact, there is no difference in the pain felt by runners who had taken anti-inflammatory and those who did not take it. Laboratory experiments on animal tissues, NSAIDs actually slowed the healing of injured muscles, tendons, ligament, and bones. Your bones don’t thicken and your tissues don’t strengthen as they should.

So, there is no indication to use anti-inflammatory painkillers before and during exercise. Ibuprofen can be used after the event to reduce inflammation from and acute injury. In this situation it is very effective.

There are other ways to reduce pain and stiffness after exercise. You can try stretching, do yoga, sit in a hot tub or go for a massage therapy. Ibuprofen is a good drug but has side effects and the pain relief with just one dose does not last too long. It is very useful for acute pain to get some immediate relief. Taken every six hours after surgery or sprained ankle (just one example) for two to three days does help relieve pain but you have to make sure you don’t take it on an empty stomach.

For chronic pain, you should talk to your doctor for better options. Take pain killers which last longer in pain relief and have fewer side effects.

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