I’ve worked with a number of clients who have taken ibuprofen before a workout because they feel muscle or joint pain and expect the pain to hinder their performance in their workout. It seems logical, but here is the counterargument to this idea:
The whole point of taking ibuprofen is to numb the pain… but pain is an important signal to listen to. Pain guides us away from movements that could worsen an injury. If we numb the pain signal, we may end up doing exercises that turn a minor injury into a major injury.
An alternative strategy is to identify what kind of movement is causing the pain. Maybe there is a flaw in technique that is causing the pain. Or maybe we just need to avoid doing these movements until the muscle/joint has time to heal before we can use it again. This strategy is much more effective long-term, but we can’t use it if we can’t feel pain!
Considering this idea, for most of us, the answer to the question, “Should I take ibuprofen before a workout?” is “NO”.
There are some instances when someone might choose the ibuprofen route though. The only reason I can think of that makes logical sense is if our performance in this workout REALLY MATTERS. This might be the case for an athlete who is competing in an important event. No football player is going to sit out of a game because they have a sore elbow. Even then, the athlete would have to decide if the risk is worth the reward. It probably depends on how important the event is to the athlete. For most of us though, the best idea is to skip the ibuprofen and let pain tell us which exercises we should avoid for now.