Popping an Advil, generically known as ibuprofen, before a tough run seems like a good idea. You head off soreness and give your body the ability to push through minor aches and pains. However, this harmless pre-run step can cause long-term damage to your intestinal lining, delay healing, encourage injury and risk hyponatremia, a dangerously low concentration of sodium in the blood.
The best tactic? If you're hurting, take the day off and allow your injury to heal. Advil isn't your ticket to an easier workout or faster race.
Anti-inflammatory medications, like Advil, can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal tract. Regular use is a known cause of ulcers and internal bleeding. Combine their use with strenuous exercise, which also damages the intestinal lining, and you have a greater risk of damage.
A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2012 concluded that ibuprofen exacerbates small intestinal injury induced by exercise, possibly leading to gut dysfunction in healthy people. The researchers tested the effect of 400 milligrams of ibuprofin on the small intestine in combination with high-intensity cycling, but the results are likely the same with any exercise, including running.
Your first instinct may be to use Advil to help with healing, but the pill only masks the pain. Growing evidence suggests that anti-inflammatories actually delay healing. Advil can disrupt the natural healing process by quelling inflammation, and although inflammation causes discomfort, it's an important step the body takes to bring about eventual recovery.
A paper in Nursing Times published in 2012 raised these concerns in regards to soft tissue injuries, meaning tendonitis or muscle strains, tears and sprains.
Read More: The Importance of Rest Days
Increase Injury Potential
Although taking an Advil isn't going to cause you to hurt yourself, it could lead you to aggravate an existing issue. Pain is a signal from the body to take care. If you try to override that pain with a pain killer and still run on a sore ankle, tender muscle or tight hip, you risk overstressing a weak body part.
Instead of trying to get through the pain with a pill, heed your body's warning and rest the area. Even if you're just trying to use the Advil to get over the effects of an extra-hard workout, that soreness you feel is your body telling you it needs a day or two to — not to push harder.
Hyponatremia is a condition in which you have a sodium imbalance in your blood. During exercise, you lose a lot of sweat, which contains sodium, and replace it with water — you may be hydrated, but not have the right balance of electrolytes for optimal performance and good health.
Your body may actually begin to fail if the condition persists. In dire cases, you'll experience brain swelling, cardiopulmonary arrest and possible death.
If you take an anti-inflammatory prior to running it can alter your kidney function and increase the risk of hyponatremia. Your kidneys tend to retain water as an effect of the Advil, which dilutes your sodium levels. If you're running on a particularly hot and humid day, this possible side effect is heightened.
Read More: How to Get Rid of Sore Muscles After Running