Ibuprofen has long been the magic pill that athletes turn to in cases of injury, inflammation and the occasional hangover. Along with other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), Ibuprofen prevents the body from manufacturing prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are substances that the body naturally produces to act as mediators for a variety of physiological functions. These functions include mediating pain and inflammation, but they also protect the stomach lining and regulate blood pressure.
This article will attempt to look at how NSAIDs can affect the growth of muscle tissue, break down the lining of the stomach and the damage it can inflict on the liver.
Let’s get started.
According to Kelly Starrett, “Ibuprofen has no place in the life of the athlete obsessed with chasing performance”. NSAIDs block all prostaglandins; those that cause pain as well as those that protect the stomach lining. This can lead to upset stomachs or GI bleeding. The risks of stomach irritation and GI bleeding increases with long term use of NSAIDs.
Many athletes take NSAIDs with the belief that it will reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, when in reality there has not been one credible study to support these claims. In fact, multiple studies have shown that the opposite is true. Published in 2008, a study from Canada garnered the conclusion that high doses of Ibuprofen have actually been shown to inhibit muscle protein synthesis after strength training. Other studies have come up with the same results. NSAIDs have also repeatedly been shown to do nothing to prevent muscle soreness. After weeks of studies conducted on individuals, there was no detectable therapeutic benefits gained from ingesting Ibuprofen after repeated strength training sessions. It also failed to have any positive effect on muscle stiffness, relaxation of arm angles, and muscle swelling.
While some may think that Ibuprofen can reduce inflammation, it has been shown that it has no effect on perceived soreness. In fact, it has been associated with elevated levels of inflammation and cell damage. Ibuprofen takers have also been show to have higher plasma levels of markers and macrophage inflammatory proteins for muscle damage.
On top of all of this, there is the havoc that it wreaks on the liver and stomach. I remember my former boss telling me that his doctor recommended he take two Ibuprofen every day for heart health, then 15 years later he learned that he had multiple massive kidney stones. So, as much as I want to say “ask your doctor”, it’s a crap shoot.
NSAIDs cause 3 times as many cases of liver failure as all other drugs combined, and is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States (war on drugs, anyone?). Taking even small doses of Ibuprofen with trace amounts of alcohol can cause irreversible liver failure. This might be a good time to stop taking NSAIDs to nurse your hangover.
There is a huge difference between muscle soreness and actual pain. As successful athletes, it is up to you to learn the difference with your own bodies. NSAIDs are a serious drug that should not be ingested like chunks of delicious jerky. Every drug has a cost-to-benefit ratio, and the cost of Ibuprofen simply outweigh the benefits far too much. If you are having problems with soreness, try working on your recovery, taking more fish, and stop being such a pussy.
Soreness means you are doing something right.