The Dangers of Running on Anti-Inflammatory Medications


Every 28 days, I take Aleve (or in the past, Motrin) to combat menstrual cramps.

It never fails to take me a few minutes to realize during this medicated time why I am not sore, stiff or tired in my muscles after my long runs, easy runs, speed runs or whatever runs — until it clicks — I am taking Aleve! Duh.

The point of this post is not to promote taking anti-inflammatory medications in order to run and recover.

Nope. Just the opposite!


It can actually be dangerous to run on anti-inflammatories, did you know that?

Anti-Inflammatories and NSAIDS include Ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen and other medications that are used to reduce inflammation and pain. 

NSAIDs make you feel better because they inhibit the production of prostaglandins (which I have learned to despise  by name because they are responsible for the terrible cramps I get each month) but, those same prostaglandins, which can cause pain and inflammation, also do some good things for us:

  • Protect the lining of the stomach and intestines
  • Maintain secretion of mucous in the digestive tract
  • Regulate blood flow to the kidneys

The problem is, when you take these anti-inflammatory medications, all of this gets disrupted which is only further irritated by running, especially during racing.

I can tell you based on basic common sense that masking your real life pains and muscle soreness in order to run can hurt you.

If you take one of these medications to mask an ailment or pain, you will also be masking your ability to realize that your muscles may be stiff, sore and fatigued. With your pains covered up, you may attempt to run when you need to rest. Running when you should probably be resting can increase your risk of injury, burnout and overtraining.

These medications can make you think you are more recovered than you are. You may push harder during what should be an easy run. Easy runs are necessary to recover our muscles. Pushing too hard during easy runs can also increase your risk of injury, burnout and overtraining!

Taking pain relievers to mask certain aches and pains may alleviate discomfort and allow you to run, when really your body should be resting or taking it easy in order to heal whatever it is that was aching in the first place.

Medical Scary Stuff:

I actually did not know about the following risks associated with running while taking anti-inflammatory medications until the night before I ran the More/Fitness Magazine Half Marathon in 2013.

I remember reading through the information packet after the expo which advised a warning against taking pain relievers/NSAIDS/anti-inflammatory medications of any kind prior to the race and I nearly freaked out!

I had an injured shoulder at the time (OMG who remembers that?!) and had been taking Motrin around the clock for days. I could not undo all that was in my system at that point!

Some Potential Side Effects:

Nausea, stomach cramps and other gastric issues. We already know that runners can experience gastrointestinal distress when running but taking these medications can make it even worse or cause it to happen when it wouldn’t normally happen to you!

Stomach Ulcers

Impaired Healing of Muscle Tissue

Increased Risk of Hyponatremia


Intestinal Bleeding

Blood in Stool and/or Urine

I am not someone who normally has stomach issues when running or racing. I absolutely experienced all sorts of gastro discomforts in the hours following the race (not during, started about an hour later). I am glad I had read the packet, otherwise I would have been really scared.

There was nothing I could have done at the time to prevent the side effects as I didn’t know the warnings far enough in advance of the race. I still can’t believe I ran that half marathon with that slowly healing randomly injured shoulder! Worst injury (and only injury) I have ever had.

While I think that the occasional Aleve or Motrin is okay, prolonged use and prior to races/extreme exertion? We may want to think twice.

So often, all we hear, read and talk about is what to eat and not eat before and after a race when the truth is, medications need to be discussed as well.

If you currently take routine medications, I think it’s worth investigating some of the possible side effects of taking them while running. For example, if you take an allergy medication, those can be very dehydrating so remembering to hydrate and paying attention to electrolyte balance becomes even more important than usual.

Links of Interest:

Here are some more informative articles which take this topic of running on anti-inflammatory medications into further detail for us.

Ibuprofen and Running

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, Kidney Function and Exercise

Pain Medicine For Runners: Before, During or After Exercise?

Ibuprofen and Exercise: Help or Harm for Endurance Athletes?

The dangers of running on anti-inflammatories #running #nsaids #races #fitfluential Click To Tweet

Did you know about the warnings associated with running on anti-inflammatory medications?

Ever experience these side effects or side effects from running while taking other medications?


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  1. says

    I also learned this a few years ago but in general I have gotten really cautious about taking any anti-inflammatories and try to avoid it whenever possible. I still can’t believe that when I had achilles tendonitis 10 years ago that my podiatrist told me to take an NSAID every day and keep running. I really hope he no longer tells people to do that!!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Weekly Recap and Arkansas WeekendMy Profile

  2. says

    Years ago I did this a couple of times while injured and learned my lesson! I already had digestive issues and it made it so much worse, once was during my second marathon and it was really a nightmare. Such a bad experience that I actually don’t take them at all anymore!

  3. says

    To be fair, many of those side effects come from extremely high doses, but I am still happy that you shared them. In short, if you have something wrong and or painful, don’t rely on medication for a quick fix. Get it checked out!
    I, personally, cannot take NSAIDs because of my disease and the medications that I am already on. So, if nothing else, a PSA: if I can go without, so can you!
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Returning to Running After Stress FractureMy Profile

    • says

      yeah, like I said, I am sure the occasional dose won’t do anything like it doesn’t monthly for me but after taking it for a week and then running the race, I did have the side effects which would have scared me if I didn’t read the packet to know it was possible to cause it.

  4. says

    This post is so important. I avoid taking any kind of ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory medications for that very reason. Luckily, I don’t need to during that time of the month. I used it a lot in college when we were biding time for my knee surgery but I’m really weary of taking it because I worry that I’ll do further damage when I’m not able to feel the pain.
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…Where I’ve BeenMy Profile

  5. says

    I try to avoid too much Aleve/ibuprofen because it does not agree with my stomach, interferes with digestion, and I’ve had enough of those issues. I’m lucky that only the first day or so of my cycle is that uncomfortable that I need to, but it’s something to be aware of!
    Alyssa @ renaissancerunnergirl recently posted…Scotland Run 10K Race RecapMy Profile

  6. says

    Ohhh yes, I forgot about this. Andrew likes me to carry along Advil for him on his long runs but I don’t like giving it to him unless he’s REALLY suffering and even then, he shouldn’t be REALLY suffering! He should probably stop!

    He takes Lithium (bipolar disorder) which is a salt, so his doctor told him to drink shitloads of water to combat the salt buildup in his kidneys. So he does not take ANY sodium during races at all whatsoever. He’s all about the jellybeans and gummy bears.
    Suzy recently posted…Week in Review: MiniMy Profile