Q: I’ve been training for a race and treating my aches and pains with ibuprofen. Is it safe to use every day?
A: Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medications known as NSAIDS, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Other medications in this class include aspirin and naproxen. The main goal with short-term use is to minimize pain by decreasing enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. This is particularly helpful for joint and muscle pain, where symptoms can improve as inflammation decreases.
However, with long-term use, roughly more than 10 days, it can also lead to a higher risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, damage to the kidneys or liver and ulcers in the stomach. Nausea, heartburn or stomach pain could indicate an ulcer. Decreased urine output could be a sign of kidney damage. There is also some concern that people who take ibuprofen or other NSAIDS chronically can have rebound headaches.
The dosage and length of time one can safely take ibuprofen varies, but be sure to use the lowest possible dose for symptom relief. If you have a history of ulcers, heart problems or kidney or liver issues, you may be at higher risk for adverse reactions. It's important to talk to your primary care provider about any pain you're feeling to see if another treatment option may be better for you. That said, used properly and with monitoring by your physician, these medicines can be effective and safe.
Erik Polan, DO, is an internal medicine physician at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.