NSAIDS and Cycling

Since 2011 I have been on an aspirin regimen to avoid stroke as prescribed by my cardiologist. The problems sometimes associated with aspirin such as bleeding and allergy have not been problems for me. That made it easy for me to unwittingly take a slightly higher dose than normally recommended with the feeling that more might be better. That is not so.


There was a recent post on the journeyonabike Facebook page on this issue that got me interested in researching the topic more. People were commenting on their use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) to prevent or minimize discomfort during a ride. Others were warning against that practice and I decided to look into it since it pertained to me. I am not a doctor and if you need more information as it pertains to you, you should consult with your personal doctor.


The overall concern is the effect of NSAIDs in general on renal (kidney) function, especially on people who are engaged in rigorous exercise, including bicycle touring and related training. NSAIDS and dehydration are a bad combination and the use of NSAIDs as a preventive measure is not recommended. That is, dosing with an NSAID to prevent pain during a ride is not a good idea. The long term effect of this can be kidney damage. There are other side effects on heart rate and heart health, but it has been difficult to find all of the pertinent and credible information in one place. A typical article is the one that I found at the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It is straightforward to find much more information on this by doing searches on the Internet for topics such as “NSAIDs and hydration”.


Another personal finding is that the bad effects of NSAIDs can be mitigated by lower doses. It appears that at lower doses some of the enzyme and hormone activity affecting digestive and renal function are impacted less. The recommended dose of aspirin as a stroke prevention regimen appears to be 70 to 350 milligrams with many suggestions that 70 to 100 milligram dosage is adequate. I am pursuing this with the guidance of my cardiologist.


There are other concerns with the use of NSAIDs, including discontinuing an aspirin regimen and use of more than one NSAID at a time. There are studies indicating that discontinuing an aspirin regimen can increase the probability of a bad heart event. Using another NSAID such as Advil or Ibuprofen while on an aspirin regimen can increase the chances of bleeding. Use of acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead is recommended by some, which can have its own bad side effects on the liver when overused or used along with regular alcohol consumption.


All of that said, personal caution is the best course of action. NSAIDs should be used with moderation and regular dosing should be with the care and consultation of a medical doctor. This is especially important for people such as cyclists who tax their organs with regular exercise. Above all, do not use NSAIDs in an attempt to make your ride more comfortable. Instead, use regular training to build yourself up to what ever level of performance you need for your travels.