For most of us, ibuprofen is a multi-tasking miracle worker. It takes care of cramps, headaches, hangovers, muscle soreness—you name it, it probably cures it. It's so effective for so many different aches and pains that you might find yourself reaching for that pill bottle fairly often. Proceed with caution, however, because frequent, extended use of Ibuprofen has some nasty side effects. Thankfully, we've researched how best to use the drug, so read on to get the information you need to stay pain-free and safe.
Before we delve into the dos and don'ts with this over the counter drug, let's first figure out what ibuprofen actually is. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. It blocks the substances your body creates that cause inflammation. Therefore, it's helpful when you're looking to decrease things like pain or swelling, both of which are inflammatory responses our bodies produce. Ibuprofen also helps with symptoms related to inflammatory responses, like fevers.
With NSAIDs being so effective for so many things, it's a good thing that drugs like ibuprofen are safe. However, ibuprofen is only safe if taken infrequently in small doses. Frequent use of the drug has been known to cause digestive issues, cardiovascular problems, intestinal bleeding, and even kidney damage. For example, the drug is frequently, and incorrectly, used by endurance athletes to prevent pain during and after races. A 2017 study found that among a test group of endurance athletes who frequently consumed the drug, these athletes were much more likely to kidney injury. Granted, not all of us are endurance athletes, but the results are alarming no matter your level of fitness.
To prevent these scary side effects is easy: only take Ibuprofen when you really need it. When taken at the first sign of pain, the drug is amazingly effective, but becomes less effective if taken after the pain initially appears. If you find yourself needing to take it regularly, speak to your doctor and ensure you get regular blood tests to monitor your kidney function.
Some doctors suggest taking acetaminophen, or Tylenol, as an alternative if you find yourself frequently using painkillers. If it's PMS that has you reaching for painkillers, try our list of 6 Things to Do to Relieve PMS Symptoms, or fill up your fridge with 6 Foods that Kick PMS in the Butt. If all else fails, there's always orgasms, which are known to help with loads of aches and pains.
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