Non Steroid Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen are the most common drugs listed on our patients intake paperwork. Patients are often using these drugs due to their beneficial effects on pain and inflammation. Due to being sold over the counter these drugs are often thought to be free of side effects, but they lead to close to 80,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths due to gastrointestinal bleeding. In addition to these serious consequences, NSAIDs are also thought to delay or prevent healing after acute ligamentous and bone injury as well as reduce the beneficial adaptations to exercise.
A recent article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine studied the impact of NSAID use on the effects of an exercise program (Rooney et al. 2016). The authors conducted an animal study placing animals in either an exercise or sedentary group. Within each group half of the animals were placed on NSAIDs and were followed over the 8 week course of exercise. The authors found the NSAIDs did not impair the beneficial mechanical adaptations to exercise such as stiffness or tissue quality, but did decrease the cross sectional size of the muscle. The results of the study suggest the animal’s medication use attenuated the normal growth of the muscles in response to the exercise.
This study adds to the existing literature on the impact of NSAIDs on healing and adaptations to exercise. Patients are advised to speak with their primary care doctor regarding these medications, their effects and side effects.