Studies Question Use of Painkillers with Exercise

An important note about exercise and painkillers, via the New York Times: “Taking ibuprofen and related over-the-counter painkillers could have unintended and worrisome consequences for people who vigorously exercise. These popular medicines, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, work by suppressing inflammation. But according to two new studies, in the process they potentially may also overtax the kidneys during prolonged exercise and reduce muscles’ ability to recover afterward.”

The piece continues: “NSAID use is especially widespread among athletes in strenuous endurance sports like marathon and ultramarathon running. By some estimates, as many as 75 percent of long-distance runners take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs before, during or after training and races.”

One study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, notes that “Muscle repair after injury entails an immune response that orchestrates efficacious regeneration. Here we identify Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) as a crucial inflammatory mediator of muscle stem cells (MuSCs), the building blocks of muscle regeneration… Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly used to treat pain after muscle injury, inhibit PGE2 synthesis, hinder muscle regeneration, and lead to weakened muscles. Importantly, a single treatment of injured muscles with PGE2 dramatically accelerates muscle repair and recovery of strength.”