Runner's World (UK)
I’VE HEARD IT CAN DAMAGE THE KIDNEYS.
IS IT SAFE TO USE AN ANTIINFLAMMATORY WHEN YOU RUN?
NON-STEROIDAL (NSAIDs) are a family of drugs that includes ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. Ibuprofen can be bought over the counter in the UK and is widely used by runners, because it gives effective relief for some musculoskeletal pain.
It’s not uncommon for runners to take ibuprofen before a long run in anticipation of pain, particularly when they want to perform well in a race or when they are running with an injury. We know that long-term use of NSAIDs can cause health problems, including kidney damage, high blood pressure, heart attacks and gastrointestinal ulcers, but will a single dose before an endurance run pose any risk?
Anecdotally, up to 75 per cent of ultramarathon runners take ibuprofen before racing, so this population is ideal for identifying any potential harm to the kidneys. For a study published in 2017, 89 runners were given either ibuprofen or a placebo to take every four hours during a 50-mile run. Kidney function was tested immediately after the race – 39 runners had signs of acute kidney injury. The risk was 18 per cent higher in those who took ibuprofen. For every five runners who took ibuprofen, there was one extra case of kidney damage.
NSAIDs reduce blood flow in the kidneys and inhibit the formation of compounds called prostaglandins, which usually cause dilation of the blood vessels and increased filtration rates in the kidney. If we add the negative effect of dehydration, we can begin to see why taking ibuprofen during endurance runs is not a risk-free option.