Do Tylenol and Running Mix?Posted on Jul 9th 2009 4:00PM by Jennifer Fields
Many runners take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, for their pains. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin, are more recognizable by some of their brand names -- Advil, Aleve and Bayer -- and are favored by athletes because they alleviate muscle discomfort and swelling.
However, NSAIDs have gotten a bad rap because they can cause stomach distress. (NSAIDs work by blocking an enzyme that just so happens to protect the stomach lining from being damaged by its own acids, hence the tummy trouble.) But, here's the bad news for long-distance runners who are already prone to stomach issues anyway: When taken before or during a long run, NSAIDs can cause nausea, stomach cramping, and diarrhea. (Where is that next Port-A-Potty?)
That's one reason why Tylenol (which contains acetaminophen) is handed out at most marathons. Now, if you've been reading the news in the last week, you know there's been a big hubbub over acetaminophen. Because it has been linked to liver damage, a federal advisory panel recommended banning the popular pain killers.
So, what exactly are you supposed to take for that sore, swollen knee? I asked Dr. Robert Sallis, co-director of Sports Medicine Fellowship at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center. He says, "Low doses of any of these medications are probably safe, but if you're going to pick one, pick Tylenol." Surprised? I was. Not only did he call Tylenol the safest choice, but he said the outcry over the drug was "way overblown."
Sallis went on to caution that if you've had an ulcer or a history of stomach problems, you should avoid NSAIDs. Similarly, if you have a history of liver problems, are a big drinker or have had hepatitis, you shouldn't take acetaminophen. As for what qualifies as a "low dose," Sallis recommends taking no more than 400-600 mg of NSAIDs a day and no more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen a day, though he thinks a max of 2,000 mg is an even better guideline for athletes.
As for that little habit of taking a painkiller for pain you don't have yet, he said, "We know people do this and have been for a long time and in small doses, it isn't that harmful."
Another thing Sallis did mention was that pain is an indication of tissue damage. If you're experiencing regular pain, take the hint that you're overdoing it or doing something wrong. I know runners, and I'm sure you've glossed over that recommendation entirely, but hey, it's something to think about.
Tell me, how do you treat your running pains?