NSAIDs—or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and Advil—have long been used by athletes to blunt pain. While popping a few of these little pills can certainly ease aches and pains in the short term, research shows that using NSAIDs to prevent and treat inflammation before, during, and after exercise isn't exactly a good idea.
The most recent study done on this topic, published in the Emergency Medical Journal, had 89 athletes in several ultra-marathons around the world take ibuprofen or a placebo at the 50-mile stage of their race. Afterward, researchers found most of the athletes had creatinine levels high enough to indicate acute kidney injury, but the incidence was 18 percent higher in those who had taken an NSAID.
In other words, we know NSAIDs have negative health implications—and not just because of kidney-related health problems. "After performing an aerobic activity that already increases blood pressure and heart rate, such as running, NSAIDs may not be the best option to eliminate inflammation," says Shoshana Gelb, clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy. "They have been linked to further raising blood pressure and may increase the risk for heart failure and atrial fibrillation. The disturbance in heart rhythm can further lead to blood clots, creating other health complications."
In the heat of a painful moment, though, it's hard to know what to do instead. Here's what the professionals suggest: