Ask the Sports Doc - Pain Medication

  • Published
  • By The Sports Doc
  • 55th Medical Group
Hey Sports Doc,

I'm an avid runner, putting in 30 to 40 miles a week. I get pain in my hips and knees a lot. I've been in to see my regular doctor for this and other injuries. Every time I go in, they give me Motrin and tell me to rest and ice. Isn't there anything better or more effective for my pain, and should I be worried about side effects while I'm taking it?


Motrin is a medication in the group called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It is also sold as ibuprofen, Midol or Advil. This category of medicine works by decreasing inflammation, which is a cause of pain. These medicines are used for many different conditions with the goal of keeping control of this inflammation.

For most muscle and joint pain in the early phase, ibuprofen does a great job of controlling symptoms. It can be used before exercise as well to prevent inflammation during and after a workout. Professional and amateur athletes are routinely prescribed this medication by their physicians because, in the appropriate setting, it works!

Keep in mind, injuries severe enough to merit more than just occasional medication use should be evaluated by a doctor. NSAIDs can have severe side effects. These can include damage to your kidneys and stomach, because they affect these organs in a very different way. Motrin should be taken as your physician prescribes and rarely should be continued on a regular basis or for long periods of time.

Stronger pain medicines are out there, but many of these have even greater risks and often don't work as well for this type of pain.

Different NSAIDs are also available and work by the same mechanism as ibuprofen. Some names you may hear mentioned include naproxen, flurbiprofen, ketoprofen and many others. None has been proven to be more effective than the widely available ibuprofen.

By the way, NSAIDS are what I use when my knee flares up!

As always, good communication with your doctor and occasional use of NSAIDs can keep you running and your pain controlled. Good luck S.C. and thanks for the question!