Painkillers taken before marathons linked to potentially serious side effects

April 19, 2013

Many competitors try to prevent pain interfering with their performance by taking painkillers that are readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets, say the authors.

And in a bid to find out what impact these common drugs might have, the authors quizzed participants in the 2010 Bonn Marathon/Half-Marathon about their use of medication and any symptoms they had during and/or after the race.

In all, just under 4000 (56%) of all 7048 competitors returned their online questionnaires. Most (87%) had run marathons before.

Of those who took painkillers before the race, 1 in 5 said they also used painkillers during training to curb or ward off pain; 1 in 10 said they had pain symptoms before the start of the race. This compares with 1% of those who didn't touch painkillers.

Over half the drugs taken (54%) were bought over the counter without a prescription, and included diclofenac, asprin, and ibuprofen.

The numbers of those forced to withdraw during the race because of pain and other health symptoms differed little between those who took painkillers and those who didn't.

But withdrawal from competition because of gastrointestinal problems was significantly more common among those taking painkillers, and while withdrawal as a result of muscle cramps was rare, it was significantly more common in those who had taken these drugs.

Runners who popped painkillers were five times as likely to experience symptoms as those who didn't take these drugs; the overall difference in risk was 13%.

Symptoms included stomach cramps, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal bleeds, blood in the urine and joint and muscle pain.

The rate of symptoms rose in parallel with increasing dose. One in 10 of those taking diclofenac took over 100 mg; 43% of those who took ibuprofen, the second most popular choice, took doses of 800 mg or more--twice the recommended dose.

Virtually none of the respondents said they were aware of any risks associated with taking painkillers for endurance sports.

Nine runners who took painkillers said they had ended up in hospital: three for temporary kidney failure after taking ibuprofen; four for bleeding ulcers (aspirin), and two after a heart attack (aspirin), one of whom had taken 500 mg for mild foot pain.

None of the runners who competed without having topped up on painkillers was admitted to hospital.

Painkillers block enzymes called cyclooxygenases, which regulate the production of prostaglandins. But the authors suggest that prostaglandins also protect tissues when the body is under extreme stress, such as during endurance sports.

"Taken together, our data indicate that the widespread use of cyclooxygenase inhibitors in connection with endurance sports is potentially damaging. Further investigations are warranted to examine whether the use of analgesics before and during sports activities should be avoided altogether," they conclude.
-end-


BMJ

Related Pain Articles from Brightsurf:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.

It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.

New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.

Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.

Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.

Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.

Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.

Read More: Pain News and Pain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.