NSAIDs and Muscle Recovery

Dear Sports Doc,

I’ve been hearing some conflicting information about the effects of ibuprofen after a long run – specifically that the anti-inflammatory effects of the ibuprofen stop the muscle from recovering as effectively & decrease muscle gain. Can you help to clarify this? I ran my first marathon earlier this year & used ibuprofen after most of my longer runs. Thank you.


Great question! The literature is conflicting, but the general opinion in the research I can find implies that NSAIDs like ibuprofen are good analgesics for pain control after exercise, but may interfere with the normal inflammatory process that helps the muscle heal after activity. I guess the question really revolves around how much you use the ibuprofen and at what dose.

With no data to support this statement, I will guess that the intermittent use of ibuprofen at over the counter doses after weekly long runs does not interfere with your muscle recovery at a noticeable difference and it may allow you to get to work the next day. However, I think the regular daily use of an NSAID to relieve the pain of exercise may cause problems.

My biggest fear for the regular daily use of NSAIDs or the use during runs or training is the effect on the kidney. It only takes one patient with renal failure to give a person pause with respect to the use of these medications during runs or races, especially if dehydrated. We do not stock any NSAIDs in our medical kits for Twin Cities in Motion races including the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. This sometimes confuses both our volunteers and our racers. I do not recommend taking these medications until you are sure you are well hydrated and you have good blood flow through the kidneys.

The use you describe does not seem to be a risk for you, but I would not recommend you increase the use. An increasing need for pain relief may suggest that a reduction in training volume or intensity is indicated rather than in increase in pain medication use or dose.

I hope this helps.




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