Many people use medications such as ibuprofen to help ease the pain from a number of health conditions including toothache, earache, headache, sore throat, and sprains just to name a few. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, otherwise referred to as NSAIDs. These are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs on the planet and some other examples of them are naproxen (often prescribed as Naprosyn or Aleve) and diclofenac (often prescribed as nebuliser Voltaren). Aspirin is another drug that is classed as an NSAID but is more often used for blood thinning effects as opposed to easing pain.
Are NSAIDs safe?
As with most drugs, there’s always a small risk of side effects when taking NSAIDs. This may include an upset stomach, cardiovascular problems, and intestinal bleeding. In very rare cases, the risk of a heart attack may be increased, but generally just for those who have suffered from one previously. Kidney problems can also occur through taking NSAIDs, but usually only occur in people that have already suffered from them. Overall NSAIDs are relatively safe and for that reason, many are available as over-the-counter medicines.
Using NSAIDs to ease exercise pain
A recent study revealed that people often use NSAIDs to help ease aches and pains after exercise. Some athletes have even been known to take them preventatively. But, these same athletes are putting themselves at a greater risk of kidney injury. Other factors that contribute to kidney injury include dehydration and muscle damage. How much worse will it be for them if they then start taking NSAIDs as well?
A new study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal addressed this issue. A total of 89 ultramarathoners took part in the study and were divided into two groups. Both groups had to run 155-miles but one group took a 400mg dose of ibuprofen every four hours as they neared the end of the race. The other group took a placebo. Results from the study were quite alarming and revealed the following:
- Kidney injury was found to be much more severe in those taking ibuprofen.
- Overall kidney injury was quite common and by the end of the race, nearly half (44%) of the participants displayed a significant reduction in kidney function.
- Kidney injury was found to be more common in those taking ibuprofen. Just one-third of the placebo group showed signs of reduced kidney function as opposed to over half of those who took the ibuprofen.
- Those that finished the race quicker and experienced greater weight loss during the race also had an increased risk of kidney injury.
So, what does this mean?
While this study was quite biased in the fact that it involved your more than typical exerciser, it still demonstrates a clear association between the taking of NSAIDs while exercising and an increased risk of kidney injury. However, one should note that the long-term effects of taking the NSAID were not monitored and it’s quite possible that kidney function would have returned to normal after a period of rest and hydration.
The final word
The bottom line is that if you do find yourself taking NSAIDs regularly, it’s important to have regular blood monitoring. This will include measuring kidney function and will alert you to any problems early on. For anyone who is already suffering from significant kidney disease, they should probably avoid NSAIDs altogether. If you have any concerns about taking NSAIDs then consult your doctor before use just to be on the safe side.