Many athletes take ibuprofen before, during or after exercise to help relieve muscle soreness and to assist in muscle recovery. I have often overheard athletes jokingly referring to ibuprofen as "Vitamin I" in the ultrarunning community as they swear by the drug's pain reducing effects. But just how beneficial or safe is the over-the-counter drug during exercise?
During a study conducted at the famous Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run and published in Ultrarunning Magazine, researchers found that runners who had taken ibuprofen before and during the race actually showed higher signs of inflammation than runners who had not taken the drug. Ibuprofen users also showed signs of slight kidney impairment and other dangerous side affects.
Besides pain prevention, athletes use ibuprofen to promote healing after exercise to decrease inflammation. According to an article from Chrio Medical Group, researchers found that ibuprofen actually slowed the healing of tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) by prohibiting the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are involved in collagen production (the building block of tissue repair). Collagen formation also leads stronger bones and muscles. By inhibiting your body's collagen response, you are reducing the bone and tissue health benefits of exercise. Or worse, you could actually be making your body more susceptible to future injury from stress.
So the next time you are contemplating taking that post workout ibuprofen consider the risks and opt for a foam rolling session or ice bath.