This is not a topic I am looking forward to tackling for a variety of reasons but it is an important one. In an acronym, NSAID’s. There is practically limitless information on the internet regarding athletes and anti-inflammatory drugs. I will not cover all the boring specifics and technical medical jargon but I will address the significant points. In the interest of full disclosure I must point out that I have used these drugs regularly for the past year. With that said, I will not be biased in my reporting and give you the facts as I know them and any personal opinions I will make obvious. IMPORTANT – I am NOT a doctor and don’t even play one on TV. So do not assume I am giving medical advice, I am not.
Alright, now that the lawyers have left the room, let’s get started. I know many runners are similar to me and have muscle pain or a nagging injury that compels you to take over the counter pain killers to mask the discomfort. Some athletes take ibuprofen on a regular basis but there are some definite problems when taking “Vitamin I” and other NSAID’s for long periods of time. Aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) all fall into the NSAID category and prevent your body from producing natural substances that protect the stomach lining as well as having the desired effect of reduced pain and inflammation. Since the stomach is minimally protected while taking these drugs, it can lead to nausea, cramping and gastrointestinal bleeding as the risk increases over long-term use.
Recent studies (for which I can’t seem to find any DETAILED information) have shown that masking pain can lead to increased risk of injury. OPINION – I don’t necessarily agree with this argument because it really depends on the extent of the problem. Let’s face it, at 43 years old and quite a bit of punishment inflicted upon this body, my muscles are going to do some complaining. But if you are hobbling around all day then you should probably see a doctor rather than hide the symptoms. One doctor went as far as to say that (I’m paraphrasing) if you are using NSAID’s to run, then you probably should try taking up another sport. He obviously doesn’t have much experience with runners does he?
Last, but extremely important, is the risk of kidney failure. From all the research I have done this seems to be an extremely rare situation which requires a number of factors to be present:
- Prescription dosage of NSAID’s
- A condition called rhabdomyolysis in which the body releases a protein from damaged skeletal muscles into the bloodstream that is extremely detrimental to the kidneys
- Usually some sort of viral or bacterial infection is a contributing factor
Can I take acetaminophen (Tylenol) before a race? Doctor Lewis G. Maharam (medical director for many high-profile marathons) says, “Acetaminophen is a much safer choice, because it’s far less likely to effect kidney function.” That’s one doctors opinion and I will let you decide for yourselves if this is a valid statement.
If I may speak from personal experience for a moment, I have had severe GI issues recently that have forced me seek medical attention. Is this from the NSAID’s I take three times a week? I don’t know, but it surely didn’t help. I don’t fear “risking an injury” due to hiding the pain because I still use common sense. If I had an actual injury rather than just muscles screaming at me, then yes, I would see a doctor. The kidney failure issue is something I hope none of us ever have to contend with. While extremely frightening, all investigation seems to point to it being very unlikely for most people. Whatever you decide to take for your pain, if anything, make sure that you are addressing the long term issues as well as the “here and now”.
Run for fun but race to place everyone!
© Copyright 2012 The Hornet, All rights Reserved. Written For: Adventures In Running