Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Painkillers and Marathons Don't Mix

A study published last year in BMJ Open says that taking painkillers before a marathon will actually make the pain worse. 
Marathon and half-marathon runners who took over-the-counter remedies, like diclofenac, ibuprofen, and aspirin, before the 2010 Bonn Marathon in Germany were five times more likely to experience adverse side effects, including gastrointestinal issues, blood in urine, stomach cramps, and heart palpitations during their run. Yikes!
There was a positive correlation between how much you took as well. The higher the dosage consumed, the higher their chances of having a side effect. 
So why are these painkillers causing these reactions? According to study author Kay Brune, Ph.D., painkillers reduce the production of protective hormones called prostaglandins. When this hormone is blocked, the stress caused by running is aggravated. "Between this stress and the drugs, the GI-tract, kidney, and cardiovascular systems are overrun," Brune said. 
Not everyone who takes painkillers before a race even has pain at that particular moment. 49% of runners took medication before a marathon, but only 11% had pain- the rest were doing it as a precautionary measure. None knew the risks involved.
"Bottom line: If you're not in pain, don't take painkillers," said Reed Ferber, PhD., director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary. "Because you're putting yourself at a metabolic disadvantage, because now your body is fighting to get those pills out of your system, rather than focusing on the very important task at hand."
So what should you do if you are in pain? Avoid taking painkillers. "They'll simply mask critical signs that you need from your body about when to reduce your intensity, or stretch, or stop running,"  said Ferber. The best thing to do is to find the root cause of the pain and address it. "With proper rehab, you can significantly increase strength and cut your pain in half in just three weeks," Ferber added. 
Kinesio tape compression sleeves, or Cho-Pat Knee Straps are all good recommendations to avoid popping a pill. For after a race, take Motrin. "For most people, pain at the end of a long race is unavoidable, and it's ok to take painkillers then," said Brune. "But not if you're in pain from the start, you're probably better off not participating."
Reference: Men's Health
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