We all know sore muscles are a sign of a good workout or your body’s way of responding to the rigor you just put it through. (Did you ever hear the expression “No pain, no gain”?) So it’s only natural to want to stop the inevitable aches before they begin.
But studies show reaching for that OTC painkiller (or two) before exercise, may actually be damaging your health and even putting your body at risk.
“Painkillers affect your entire body, not just the part that hurts,” says Kristin Speaker, Ph.D. “This means that they may suppress your body’s ability to respond to and recover from exercise properly.”
Over-the-counter painkillers, like Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen), block enzymes that reduce signs of inflammation and fever. These enzymes are also crucial in protecting your stomach and intestinal lining; therefore, blocking these enzymes may be putting your tummy at risk, even causing some pretty nasty exercise-induced injuries.
As for those of you who can’t quit cold turkey, Speaker says it’s okay to take Ibuprofen during your period to help ease menstrual cramps before a workout.
“Taking ibuprofen a few hours before exercise to help mitigate menstrual cramps could be very beneficial,” Speaker said. “It takes that much time for it to really start working anyway, depending on the dose, the type, and whether or not you took them with food,” she says. “Once they start working, they only last four to six hours.”
Overall, it’s better to take a painkiller after your workout than before. But if you’re in so much pain that you can’t fathom life without taking a pill, doctors recommend taking a rest day instead.
Your body will thank you later.