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NSAIDS and Running: Is It Smart?

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NSAIDS and Running: Is It Smart?

Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are grouped into two categories. Cox-1 and Cox-2 inhibitors. These medications were designed to limit the inflammatory response of the body the injury. Unfortunately for us there are many negative effects that accompany these medications. A review of current medical literature has caused us to caution patients and runners taking these harmful drugs.

In 1999 the New England Journal of Medicine released a landmark study. They estimated that a minimum of 16,500 people die every year due to side effects associated with these drugs. To put that number in perspective, that same year 16,685 people died of AIDS. It seems that these harmful medications are absorbed in your stomach ultimately resulting in a bleeding ulcer which causes you to slowly bleed to death. The journal SPINE in 1994 stated “NSAIDs are the most frequently prescribed medications worldwide. NSAIDs continue to be one of the most common drugs associated with serious adverse events.” Some of the more serious adverse events include asthma, high blood pressure, kidney failure, hepatitis and death. In fact the journal Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America in 2000 questioned the efficacy and validity of prescribing NSAIDs for muscle trauma and pain. They state “NSAIDs are often prescribed in the treatment of acute (and chronic) muscle trauma, despite a relative lack of scientific data supporting their use. In fact recent studies have suggested that the recovery process and rate of muscle fiber regeneration may be delayed when NSAIDs are prescribed.”



These findings were recently validated when researchers for the journal of Bone and Mineral Research found normal tissue healing failed due to the adverse effects of Cox-2 inhibitors (NSAIDs). Their findings state that “Cox-2 activity is necessary for normal healing.” These findings indicate that by taking NSAIDs following injury that not only is the repair process slowed but that normal healing does not occur. In fact the tissue was studied and found to be pathological (abnormal) in nature. Meaning, it was weaker and more prone to injury. The significance of this for runners and chronic injuries can not be underestimated. Imagine you develop knee pain. Your doctor prescribes Ibuprofen. It takes the pain away but does nothing to solve the reason for the pain in the first place. Now you run on your injury actually making it worse. Not only that but as your body is attempting to heal it is slowed due to the adverse effects of the drug and the new muscle tissue that is being made is weaker and abnormal!

The journal Arthritis and Rheumatism explained back in 1993 that these drugs actually accelerated the progression of knee arthritis. They stated that “analgesic medications such as NSAIDs and opiates may be effective in pain relief, NSAIDs actually increase knee torque during walking, and this may tend to accelerate the progression of the disease (arthritis). Some physicians while well intentioned have actually given patients the advice to take aspirin or Ibuprofen before, during or after a run as a preventative measure. This is directly opposed to current research. The journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise stated that “muscle inflammatory concentrations were unaffected by treatment with Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen when compared with placebo 24 hours post exercise.”

Written by Dr. Victor J. Runco, DC

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Amateur Endurance