Runner's World (UK)

I’VE HEARD IT CAN DAMAGE THE KIDNEYS.

IS IT SAFE TO USE AN ANTIINFLAM­MATORY WHEN YOU RUN?

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→ anti-inflammato­ries

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.

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