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Anti-Inflammatory Drugs- Friend or Foe?

It’s interesting to see the difference in people regarding this subject of soreness.  Some people have the idea in their head that ANY amount of soreness or pain has to be a bad thing and must be removed as quickly as possible and by any means necessary.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people that actually like the idea of being sore because it makes them feel like they really did something and because it tells them where their weaker areas are so they can work on them.

Of course, as with anything in life there are huge differences in how different people interpret the same situation. This subject is no different.  Because being sore, whether exercise or sport induced or because of some chronic tissue damage, is something that nearly all my clients at one time or another have experienced and because there is so much confusion over how to interpret this occurrence, I wanted to write about that today.  I also want to objectively discuss the role of anti-inflammatory drugs, which are the drug of choice for over 30 million people in the United States who have something that hurts in their body.

The first thing to point out is that pain is a GOOD thing.  I know that is a tough pill to swallow (no pun intended), especially since you may have been in very bad, debilitating pain before.  I have been in terrible pain too and I know how horrible it feels both physically and mentally.  However, let me explain what I mean by it being a good thing.

Pain is an indicator that something is wrong inside our body.  It typically always indicates that there is tissue damage that your body needs to heal from.  When that tissue gets damaged, there is inflammation that results.  Part of the inflammatory response is pain. Many people have the idea that they need to run to an anti-inflammatory drug right away to relieve the pain symptom, so they can continue to do things that are aggravating the painful area. This seems like a good short term strategy, I mean who wants to have pain tell them what they can and cannot do right?

Well, the danger with this is that if we mask the pain and continue to do things that we couldn’t do because we were hurting, what we are actually doing is further aggravating the damaged tissue without feeling it. This can make the tissue damage worse and delay the healing process. That is problem number one.

Problem number two has to do with what is happening on a cellular level while we are inflamed and in pain. Our body is releasing chemicals called prostaglandins that are signaling the increase in blood flow and nutrient distribution for tissue repair.  Anti-inflammatory drugs actually reduce the release of prostaglandins and therefore disrupt the signaling of the necessary processes to repair the tissue.

Problem number three is that anti-inflammatory drugs cause severe liver and kidney damage and have negative effects on our cardiovascular system if taken for long periods.  In fact over 16,500 people die each year from complications related to chronic use of over the counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs according to WebMD.com.

So the bottom line is that if you are used to reaching for Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, aspirin or a prescription anti-inflammatory drug when you’re in pain, just be careful.  Know that these drugs can delay the healing process in multiple ways and cause long term side effects.  If you have to take them to work, sleep or do something unavoidable that’s one thing, but seriously rethink taking them just to do something recreational or otherwise unnecessary.

Also, did you know that your muscles are the primary line of defense against tissue damage?  If they are not all doing their job than tissue damage is much more likely and healing takes a lot longer.  I recently did a radio interview on WSRQ 106.9 where I discussed this topic and how to ensure your muscles are doing their job to protect you and help your heal faster.  You can check it out here-


Have a great Sunday!


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