Many athletes are in the habit of taking pain killers before exercising in order to alleviate bodily pain caused by exercise or as a precautionary measure against the possibility of exercise pain. This habit, however, is not classified as a positive or healthy habit; the effects of pain killers taken before exercise should not be ignored. One of the most common pain killers consumed by athletes is ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug. The widely accepted perception is that performance can be boosted by taking pain killers since these pills effectively reduce bodily pain which could hamper performance. Scientists are not inclined towards this perception, and have painted a diametrically different picture about the effects of pain killers taken by athletes before exercise.
Why Taking Pain Killers is a Bad Idea
A study carried out by Kim Van Wijick, MD, surgical resident at ORBIS Medical Center, Maastricht, the Netherlands, examined the effects of taking the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen before exercise. According to the findings of the study which were published in the December issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, commonly consumed pain killers such as ibuprofen are not harmless and athletes should be discouraged from taking them.
Participants were administered two oral doses of ibuprofen; one in the evening and one in the morning before exercise. The participants were all healthy men who were accustomed to successfully completing endurance training sessions. The sample size was limited to nine men who were all physically fit, and who were 27 years of age. Researchers tested the effects of pain killers by conducting the experiment in four distinct parts. In the first session, the participants took 400 milligrams of ibuprofen twice before cycling for one hour; in the second session the cyclists were required to cycle for one hour without taking ibuprofen; in the third session participants were administered 400 milligrams of ibuprofen twice while they were resting; and lastly the participants were required to rest without taking ibuprofen.
Researchers found that exercise induced injuries in the small intestine were aggravated in the small intestine. Even though the study also confirmed that the intestinal damage caused was seemingly temporary and could be completely reversed one hour after the exercise session, Kim Van Wijick cautioned athletes against the long term effects of pain killers.
In a separate study, researchers discovered that anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen caused mild kidney impairment, inflammation, and a high immune system response. This study was carried out by physiologist David Niemen, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the North Carolina Research Campus. Researchers found out that athletes tend to overlook the possible effects of pain killers because they feel that pain killers such as ibuprofen can relieve bodily pain, ease discomfort and prevent post-exercise soreness. In actuality, anti-inflammatory drugs slow down the healing process in case of injured muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. Not only that, but they have no effect what so ever on the perception of pain and bodily soreness experienced after exercise.