Athletes of all ages and skill levels use anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen and naproxen, as initial treatments for injuries from sports and exercise. Since we can buy them over the counter, we might assume that they’re completely safe. Generally athletic people don’t have problems taking them occasionally for minor injuries, but they should take some simple precautions.

After an injury occurs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID’s) can decrease pain and swelling. You should use them in conjunction with other forms of treatment, though. Remember the acronym RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation. Rest, or stay off the injured body part. Use ice or other cold therapy along with compression and elevation of the extremity to decrease swelling.

Stick to the recommended doses. Don’t take a huge handful of pills at once. Exceeding the recommended daily dosage, especially if done repeatedly, can cause mild side effects, like heartburn, or more serious ones, like gastrointestinal bleeding. Adjust antiinflammatory doses by body weight for small children.

NSAIDs, or anti-inflammatory medications

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Use of nonprescription pain medications among athletes

Talk to your doctor if you have any medical conditions or take medications that warrant avoiding these drugs. Since NSAIDs have been associated with ulcers, G.I. bleeds, high blood pressure, kidney issues, and cardiovascular events, pay attention for signs of any side effects and alert your doctor.

Be careful when taking these medications for long periods of time. If pain or swelling persists for longer than 7 to 10 days, you should consider seeing a sports medicine doctor to have the injury evaluated.