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Ibuprofen: Young people should use the cheap painkiller with caution, study finds

Ibuprofen is one of the most commonly used painkillers worldwide. It is effective in treating mild to moderate pain. Nevertheless, a new study has revealed that regular use of ibuprofen may slow down the growth of muscles-a huge blow to millions of gym goers who often take ibuprofen to manage muscle pain after hours of strength training.

The study was published in the Acta Physiological in August, 2017.

The team evaluated the impact of frequent ibuprofen use on healthy men and women (aged 18-35years) that were involved in strength training over a period of 2 months.  Half of the participants were told to take high doses of ibuprofen (roughly 6 capsules or 1,200 mg a day) while the others took low doses of aspirin (75 mg) every day for eight weeks.

At the same time, the participants took part in weight-training exercises specifically designed to work the thighs two to three times a week.

At the end of the study, the muscles of those that took only aspirin were twice the size of those on ibuprofen. Similar effects were observed with muscle strength. This implies that persons who aim to bulk up their muscles should reduce or avoid ibuprofen

According to the main investigator, Tommy Lundberg,

The results are extremely interesting since the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is so globally widespread, not least amongst elite athletes and recreationally active individuals

The team led by Dr Lija concluded that “young individuals using resistance training to maximise muscle growth or strength should avoid excessive intake of anti-inflammatory drugs.’’

What are some of the common questions asked about ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs known  as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is useful in the treatment of pain, fever and inflammation. Many persons with migraines, headaches, muscles aches and arthritis take ibuprofen regularly.

How does Ibuprofen work?

This is by blocking the production of prostaglandins which causes pain, fever  and swelling following illness or injury.

How   should  ibuprofen be taken?

For individuals that are 12 years and above, it is usually one or two capsules every six hours. No more than 12 capsules or 2400mg should  be taken in 24 hours. It is best taken with food or milk to reduce damage to the stomach  which commonly occurs when high doses are taken.

What common conditions may make use of ibuprofen unsafe?

Persons in certain situations should not take ibuprofen to reduce the risk of serious side effects.

Some common conditions are:

  • Pregnancy– especially the last 3 months
  • Children younger than 2 years
  • Persons with chronic medical problems such as asthma, liver or kidney diseases, ulcers, heart diseases.
  • Persons drinking alcohol or taking aspirin

What are some of the common side effects?

Apart from slowing muscle growth, ibuprofen may also be associated with:

  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Skin rash or reaction
  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Stomach upset, ulcers or bleeding

In view of these potential side effects, it is important to consult your doctor when taking medicines and seek help if serious problems develop. This study suggests that more research may be needed to improve our knowledge of some commonly used medicines.


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