March 7, 2023 | News | Living with MSMS Research

Aspirin may improve MS fatigue and exercise

A new study has found that taking aspirin before exercise may reduce body temperature and improve exercise performance. The study results were presented at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in MS (ACTRIMS) Forum, held February 23-25 in San Diego.

The study enrolled 60 adults with MS who had reported being sensitive to heat (Leavitt and colleagues. ACTRIMS Forum 2023;P067). Heat sensitivity (called Uhthoff’s phenomenon) is common in MS and can contribute to fatigue. People received either two aspirins, Tylenol or a placebo before exercising. People taking aspirin had less of an increase in body temperature and better exercise performance (two minutes faster in reaching peak exertion). Similar effects were seen with Tylenol but to a lesser degree.

Numerous studies over the years have looked at the potential benefits of aspirin for people with MS. Two studies found that lower-dose aspirin (500 mg a day) or higher-dose aspirin (1300 mg or four tablets a day) reduced the severity of MS fatigue (Shaygannejad and colleagues. Neurol Res 2012;34:854-858. Wingerchuk and colleagues. Neurology 2005;64:1267-1269).

It is not clear how aspirin might affect fatigue levels. One theory is that fatigue improves once aspirin lowers body temperature. A study done found that people with MS had a slightly higher body temperature compared to people without MS, and a warmer body temperature was associated with greater physical and mental fatigue (Sumowski and colleagues. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2014;95:1298-1302).

Another potential benefit of aspirin is on mood. Over the past decade, there has also been a growing interest in the role of inflammation in the development of depression (Berk and colleagues. BMC Med 2013;11:74. Pasco and colleagues.. Psychother Psychosom 2010;79:323-325). One study reported improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in people who took aspirin after a heart attack (Sarkar and colleagues. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2012;34:160-166).

However, it is important to note that aspirin can cause stomach upset and ulcerations, and there are some reports of drug interactions (worsening anxiety, bleeding complications) when aspirin is taken with some antidepressants (Ghanizadeh and colleagues. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem 2014;13:108-111. Labos and colleagues. CMAJ 2011;183:1835-1843). So it is best to talk to your doctor before taking aspirin regularly – especially if you are taking other medications.

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