Many of my running friends and teammates ask about taking Tylenol (Acetaminophen) or NSAIDs like Motrin or Aleve (Iburprofen and Naproxen). I always advise against it. These over the counter drugs should be used sparingly if at all while running. Yes running hurts sometimes. Sure you could probably go faster if you didn’t hurt so much. But, It’s just not worth the risk. If you absolutely have to use something take the Tylenol. I know it doesn’t work as well and I know it doesn’t reduce inflammation, but if you take it as prescribed it won’t kill you.
NSAIDs paired with physical exertion and dehydration can land a runner in the hospital rather than at the finish line celebration. Why are NSAIDs so bad? For a few reasons.
First, they reduce an enzyme that helps balance blood flow to your kidneys. If you are dehydrated and running this is also going to screw with the blood flow to your kidneys. Not a good combination.
Second, NSAIDs increase your blood pressure. So does running, which adds up to a stroke or heart attack for some runners, this would possibly be reduced by a particular enzyme that protects the heart, but NSAIDs reduce that one too.
Third, NSAIDs block another enzyme (you may choose to never use NSAIDs again after all this), which protects the lining of your stomach from digestive acids. Without it, you can experience nausea, cramps, intestinal bleeding and diarrhea (just what you wanted at mile 15, right?”
Fourth, In 2005, David Nieman, Dr. P. H., director of the human performance lab at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, examined ibuprofen use at Western States 100. About 70 percent of the racers said they took it to help them manage the discomfort of racing. But when he measured pain and muscle soreness in these pill poppers, he found no reduction compared with nonusers. Worse, ibuprofen takers had more inflammation rather than less. “There’s no good reason to use ibuprofen during a race,” Nieman says. “There are too many potential negatives.”
The main risk with Tylenol is dulling the pain can mask a serious injury. Pain lets you know something is not right in your body. If you mask pain and then ignore it you will continue to cause injury and potentially be out of running for weeks.
Educate yourself about what you are putting into your body, just because you can get it without a prescription doesn’t mean it is safe to take.
Run Happy, Run Free!