Updated: Oct 2, 2022
Do you take ibuprofen daily to function, practice, play or sometimes get out of bed? It's okay to raise your hand; I was one of those college athletes who relied upon ibuprofen to play some games.
One complaint I get consistently from athletes is joint pain! I empathize with each of them; it can take you out of games, training, or even sideline you for a season.
Working with athletes and diving into their diet, OTC use, habits, training, and recovery, the athlete is able to make targeted changes based on genetics and information collected, often resulting in a decrease in joint pain without needing their daily regimen of Advil/ibuprofen (or other chosen NSAID such as Aleve/naproxen). I call that a WIN!
In recent research, there is a documented gut-inflammation-joint connection. The improvement of gut health carried over to one's inflammation levels and thus reduced joint pain. The gut disruption (one example, chronic NSAID/Ibuprofen use) is believed to kick off a cascade of inflammation spreading over the body and making its way to connective tissue and joints.
When used often, NSAIDs (ibuprofen/naproxen) disrupt the gastrointestinal tract and increase inflammation rather than reduce it. The athlete is in a catch-22…joint(s) hurt and take NSAIDS, chronic use of NSAIDS leads to more damage to the gastrointestinal tract and inflammation, the increased inflammation leads to more joint pain, and the cycle continues.
And yes, genetics can play a role in the amount of inflammation produced, such as the activation of IL-6 and TNF-alpha often triggered by long-duration workouts. Even the ability of the FADS1 gene to convert Omega-3 into the active form (EPA/DHA) can all play into how your body and joints feel.
I encourage you to look beyond the surface, ask questions, and dig deeper; sometimes, joint pain is merely a symptom.
While it might take time and patience, it's possible to remove the daily use of NSAIDs and improve your mobility, technique, injury resilience, and movement. The added improvement in gut health is also HUGE for physical and mental health!
Studies: 29221664, 29669931, 26656661