Pain and debilitation are the first thing people think of when they hear “surgery”. Acute post-operative pain is almost always present because the body does not differentiate a beneficial surgery from an injury—it is traumatic to your body tissue either way. Because this is something that is almost always guaranteed to occur, there has been continual research on acute post-operative pain.
A review study published earlier this year looked at various trials testing how the combination of ibuprofen (generic Advil) and caffeine affect post-surgical pain. There are many different theories as to how caffeine has a positive effect—it may be because caffeine increases the body’s ability to absorb the drug, or that it decreases how quickly your body clears it out of your system. It might help by blocking parts of your nervous system that signal pain. It could also very well be a combination of all of these factors.
Scientists determined that pain after surgery was reduced by 50% with 200mg of ibuprofen (typically 1 pill) and 100mg of caffeine. A single cup of coffee can contain anywhere from 95-200mg of caffeine (depending on brand, roast, etc), according to the Mayo Clinic.
It is important to note that many of us over-consume caffeine already, and that you should discuss this combination with your doctor before testing it out yourself. The combination puts you at an increased risk for GI irritation as well as other possible side effects. And remember, Advil does not counteract the effects of caffeine on the central nervous system—so if you are someone who has difficulty sleeping if you drink coffee at night, don’t try this combo at bedtime!
Cathlin Fitzgerald, PT, DPT, CSCS, CAFS