If You Take Ibuprofen Every Day, This Is What Happens To Your Muscles

Perhaps it's because they're so easily available over the counter, or maybe it's because many of us grew up in a household that popped an Advil as the miracle cure for all kinds of pain — headaches, muscle soreness, stomach cramps, you name it — but we might not think much about turning to ibuprofen regularly. Ibuprofen is effective because it goes a step higher than acetaminophen when it comes to relieving pain caused by inflammation. However, science has consistently maintained (at least until now) that while non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are safe in small doses for a short period of time, the same cannot be said about daily consumption for long lengths of time (via Harvard Health). 

You may have already heard of the common side effects of prolonged ibuprofen use. We're talking gastrointestinal bleeding, cardiovascular problems, and kidney complications, to name a few. But regular NSAID use has also been linked to an increase in potassium levels in your body, which can in turn cause muscle weakness, per GoodRx Health

Potassium is an electrolyte that is responsible for muscle contractions and muscle health, among many other things, per WebMD. Both high and low levels of potassium have a negative effect on your muscles. This is not the only concern when you take ibuprofen daily. For those of you who work out and pop Advils in the hopes of curing muscle soreness, you may want to think twice about this habit.  

Ibuprofen could be hindering your muscle growth

With exercises like resistance training, one of the goals is muscle growth. But your habit of consuming Advil before exercise could actually be hindering this goal. 

A 2017 study published in the journal Acta Physiologica done by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm found that ibuprofen could be messing with your gains, per Men's Health. The study employed 31 participants (men and women) between the ages of 18 and 35, and got one group to consume 1,200 milligrams of one kind of NSAID (ibuprofen) daily for eight weeks and another group to take another kind of NSAID (aspirin) at 75 milligrams every day for the same length of time. While they were on the pain relievers, the participants engaged in leg workouts 2-3 times a week. At the end of the trial period, their muscle gains were monitored using an MRI. The youth who were in the aspirin group had two times the muscle gains when compared with the ones in the ibuprofen camp. The results of the study point toward the fact that the inflammation-suppressing properties of ibuprofen can actually hinder muscle gains. There's a benefit to post-workout inflammation as far as muscle growth is concerned.

As Tommy Lundberg, lead author of the study and researcher at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Laboratory Medicine, shared (via Science Daily), "Our results suggest that young people who do weight training to increase their muscle mass should avoid regular high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs."

What is the right way to consume ibuprofen?

There is such a thing as the right way to consume NSAIDs like ibuprofen. While you would be better off consulting with your healthcare provider if you have any underlying health conditions like GI issues, heart problems, and kidney complications, and if you're pregnant, even if you're a generally healthy adult, limit your intake to only when you need it, shared internal medicine and geriatrics specialist Dr. Janet Morgan (via Cleveland Clinic). 

If you're already in the habit of taking ibuprofen every day for some kind of pain in your body, perhaps it's time to get to the root of your problem, added the internist. "It should never get to the point of everyday ibuprofen use. Issues like ongoing abdominal pain, chronic headaches, and really serious aching of your muscles don't just go away on their own."

Also, there are more than enough natural remedies for post-workout muscle soreness that you can turn to if you're a regular exerciser. Massage therapy, applying heat or ice to the sore muscles, taking adequate rest days between workouts for recovery, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, and engaging in light cardio are all effective remedies. At the end of the day, even if pain relievers are easily accessible to you, there are some things you might not know about ibuprofen. It is still a form of medication, so it's important to understand its benefits and risks.