Use Caution When Taking Anti-inflammatory Meds After Exercise

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This past summer I fulfilled a long-time dream to become a certified running coach via the Road Runners Club of America organization. This was a two day in depth program in which the physiology of running was discussed, in addition to the students formulating training programs for future clients.

Day one was spent learning about the body and how it adapts to the rigors of running. I was surprised to hear that 70% of all people who take up running will, at some point in time, develop an injury. And while the risk for injury is a tad higher with runners than with other sports, this should not be a deterrent in starting a running program; but be aware that listening to your body and allowing for timely rest and recovery is essential to keeping you healthy as a runner.

As someone who has spent the better part of three years running, I have had my fair share of minor injuries, however nothing that has kept me away from the sport longer than a few weeks. In my recovery I did what I had read in so many running books and articles and that was to rest, apply ice, and take an anti-inflammatory to decrease the inflammation.

I was surprised to hear the new trend for runners is to avoid taking any anti-inflammatory meds, such as Aleve or Ibuprofen, for any aches or pain, unless advised by their physician. The reason, these meds have been shown to decrease tissue regeneration, decrease collagen repair, as well as increasing gastrointestinal and kidney issues when taking them over a long period of time. And because they are also a pain reliever, these meds can mask pain, therefore a runner may run through an injury unaware of the damage that may be occurring.

According to Dr. William Evans of The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in a seminar I attended in January 2009, he stated that "using analgesics blunts the normal adaptive response to muscle damage, therefore one should use these medications as little as possible."

Inflammation is part of the healing process, therefore by taking these meds you are stopping the body's natural response to heal which may lead to a longer recovery time.

I no longer take any analgesics after my runs. And if I need to take them for any reason, such as a headache, I was advised to wait at least 12 hours after taking them before I run. The moral of the story is to take things slowly with any exercise plan, whether it is strength training, running or playing a team sport. Listen to your body, ice any joint that may be sore and make sure you never work through pain. Pain is your body's way of signaling you to STOP.

Have you heard that using meds, such as Aleve and Advil, can slow your recovery process? Have you taken them in the past for such issues as muscle soreness? Would you be willing to stop using them and stick with a more conservative approach to healing and recovery?

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I have heard this from trainers before, but I don't think most PCPs are aware of it. Right now, I'm sore from my 14 miler yesterday, and I'm tempted to grab some ibuprofen. I'll try tart cherry juice first, though, because I really want my muscles to heal correctly on their own. Report
I have been taking Aleve regularly for about 2 months to relieve osteoarthritis knee pain and I have already experienced some gastrointestinal issues. Based on this information (new to me), I am going to explore more natural alternatives for pain relief. Has anyone had any experience with a natural herb Cat's Claw? I read that this is an ancient remedy for joint and muscle pain. Report
I haven't taken any in a while, but this is a new one for me! Report
this is a new one for me, I have fibromyalgia and need something for the pain quite often, I take flexerol at night but only when it's really bad. Report
I would love to hear more about how to treat soreness after exercise. Report
I used to take IB with me on my hikes, but don't anymore, not because of reading this sort of thing....but I have found that ELATIONS before my hike with my Ultra Reds, takes care of most of my complaints. AFTER a hike, I like a warm Epson salt bath at times. No need for pills...but if I need to I taken MSM, or White OaK bark...think that is it! Report
Awesome information. I have always used ibuprofen to recover from my bike ride related muscle more! I want to recover naturally and optimally. Report
I have real trouble in my knee joints and sometimes my hips. If I exercise for to long I cannot sleep that night from the aching I'll take an ibuprofen but only one. Years ago the doctor allowed my daughter to use up to five ibuprofen at a time for menstrual pain, but I'd not allow it now if I heard that advice since I've learned about the possibility of liver or kidney damage. I try to make it through my day without pain killers and usually take no more than one or two a week. Report
I have chronic knee-joint pain from a fall suffered years ago. Some days it's relatively mild, but other days it interferes with exercising, among other things. Two of my doctors suggested I take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory a half hour before I exercise only when the pain is acute. In general I like to take as few drugs as possible, but I realize occasionally some are necessary. I am willing to take them because I have topnotch doctors who are judicious when it comes to dispensing medication and who offer the least invasive solutions whenever possible.. Report
Unfortunately, I am learning the "painful" way that anti-inflammatories should be stopped to allow for tissue regeneration. Two weeks ago my neurosurgeon took me off Relefen for 6 months after surgery. I take it for bone-on-bone knees and they are hurting now! My PCP took me off ibuprofen years ago because it can cause blood pressure elevation. Time for R.I.C.E. Report
Again, from nursing school, RICE these injuries: rest, ice, compression, elevation!
Linda Report
I don't know what all the effects may be .I do know that they can effect your kidneys and stomach. I am on a prescription anti inflammatory and I do have to watch the exercises I do but it is because of the injury I have. Report
I've never heard of this before. It is something to take into consideration, although I think I'll continue to take NSAIDs if I feel as though they are necessary. Report
Interesting. Never heard of this and I worked as a nurse. Report
I was aware of the extra work on the kidneys, but unaware that it impedes healing. Wow. Great information to know. Report
I have been told this by trainers for years (it is not a new trend, it is an old trend) but feel they are not as qualified as my physician to advise me about anti-inflammatories.

Inflammation is a major contributor to many disease states and in my opinion it is best to reduce it as much as possible, although there are other side effects to NSAIDS that are certainly to be considered also. Report
It is shocking to me that so many people have the joint issues that i do. It sounds like we are mostly athletes or ex-athletes and it makes me sad. Where were all of the adults when we were pushing ourselves for years never knowing the lasting damage we were causing. I definately consider my history when advising my athlete children how to train/compete safely. Report
I don't believe in just popping pills because of aches and pains. I do believe they are there to warn a person. However, I have tendinitis and many joint problems, so I have been told by doctors to take them constantly. My GI isn't very happy because as you mentioned, many are not good for the stomach. I have never taken them in relation to exercise of any sort. I've take pain relievers after pulling my back and surgeries mainly to get to sleep. If I use them now, it's mainly to sleep after an injury. Report
I am suffering from tendonitis myself and it wasn't going away so I'm on a regime of Celebrex for one month. This is the only thing that has helped with the inflammation, that and having a boot placed on my foot. But I have heard that taking anti-inflammatories are not good. When I was able to run I never took anything until I hurt my achilles. Report
Inflammation aggravates many conditions. For example an inflamed rotator cuff can cause friction leading to a viscous circle where the inflammation causes friction and the friction causes more inflammation. There are also times when exercise is a better option than rest for rehabilitation and antiinflammatorys and analgesics can make this easier.

Unless you are an expert you are probably better off letting your coach or orthopedist make the call though. Report
Interesting! I managed to give myself a known NSAIDS-side-effect: photosensitivity!

As I was training for a marathon in 2005, I initially took Ibuprofen to relieve the aches from increasing my distance regularly. Once my skin started flaring up, though, I stopped taking the meds - but it was several weeks before my skin went back to normal! Since then, I've taken NO pills at all! Yay! :)

I've always been reluctant to use OTC's - I figured that it was my body's sign that I overdid it; if it was just minor pain, it was a nice "reminder" that my body was capable of doing exercise and was recovering from a good workout. In addition, when I started taking medication on a regular basis for my thyroid, I became more cautious with OTC's; I figured my body is now busier metabolizing the medication and the less addition "stuff" I throw at my body the better. I've read about this study and the hinderance of some painkillers to healing earlier this summer and have upped my determination to recover as naturally as possible (stretching, warm shower, good healthy food) Not always easy - popping a pill gives some nice relief and quickly, but sometimes the best things aren't the easiest things.... Report
This is common sense, and again speaks to MODERATION being KEY. IMO, if you need anti-inflammatories to get through your workout routine, you need to STOP WORKING OUT, and REST until your body HEALS!

Prior to losing 240 pounds, I took Tylenol Arthritis every night before bed so that my aching legs and feet wouldn't keep me awake. Since losing the weight, I rarely take Tylenol, and never more than a day or two in a row. As a post-op gastric bypass patient, I NEVER take anti-inflammatories, as they would cause dire problems with my new "pouch." Report
This thought has always been in the back of my mind when my doctor has prescribed pain meds: If the meds get rid of the pain, how will I know if I am really getting better? How do I know whether or not I'm worsening if I don't feel pain? I've never gotten a satisfactory answer to these questions from any medical professional. Now I know that my nagging doubts about pain relievers are absolutely warranted. Report
This information is very interesting. I have fibromyalgia and know that one of the many theories out there about it is that muscles of people with fms don't heal as well - in part due to lack of REM sleep. I know people with fms who take antiinfammatories on a regular basis and now wonder if this is worse for them. I stopped taking them years ago, simply because they never worked for me. I will definitely share this info in my fms circle. Report
Ouch! pain medication that can deter recovery... Not something I was aware of in my circle of pain. I'm in a quandary now for the fibromyalga pain and arthritis. My doctor had better have some answers for me. Report
I have arthritis and my vertebrates are affected. So, I take a prescribed anti-inflammatory to keep my pain in check. I often wonder if the pain I experience during my water aerobics is less intense because of them. Thanks for the article, I will follow up with my PT and doctor. Report
I have to think about this. I have osteoarthritis in my knees so I don't run. Because of a former injury my left knee is almost bone on bone where there is a spur in the joint. I had a bad problem of what seems now to have been an acute issue 2 years ago and took a lot of Aleve (2 tablets twice a day) for a while. I gradually reduced the amount and now I have taken it only on rare occasions when discomfort affects my sleep for the past year. I am always concerned about taking much medication but I needed this to function at the time.
Thanks for the inforamtion I will be looking further into this. Report
i saw the doctor yesterday and was diagnosed with arthritis. (My hips hurt when i walk.) The doc recommended taking some kind of anti-inflammatory and commented that good ol' Tylenol was the best of the lot with the fewest long-term side effects. Report
I take ibuprofen when in pain. I get back much faster. If I do not medicate, the pain just drags on. Report
It's a great warning, but some people have no choice but to take these kinds of meds daily. Herniated discs, degenerative disc disease etc. I have 33 medical conditions, 6 herniated discs etc., so I take TRIDURAL and it helps for the most part, is non-addictive etc. But it is a good caution to people. However, some people do have no choice if it is the only med that will help them. Report
"Inflammation is part of the healing process, therefore by taking these meds you are stopping the body's natural response to heal which may lead to a longer recovery time."

First of all, when you ice your shins, the purpose of that is to reduce inflammation. It also speeds healing time. So which is it?

My doctor has basically ordered me to take anti-inflammatories for particular injuries (I only take them when in severe pain). This sounds like a "non-medication" trend the hippies like to shove down everyone's throats but I doubt it has a lot of scientific basis. Report
Wow! I need to quit listening to my mother-in-law! Report
I kinda like that pain that you feel after you run. Good muscle pain lets you know that you have worked hard!! Report
I limit my intake of all meds. I am one of those people who just react badly to many meds. About thirteen years ago, I was hitting the gym daily for a good strength program, along with a well educated trainer. I also walked everywhere. I lived in an area with alot of hills. I ended up with back pain so intense, I couldn't bend over. My medical doctor prescribed motrin (800 mg that was appropriate for my height, weight, and gender.) I ended up with tinnitis (noise in my ears.) To this day, any of that class of NSAIDS, including asprin, motrin, naproxen, and others give me tinnitis within minutes and lasting hours. I chose doctors that work with me and trust my judgment. I also ask when they perscribe me anything for pain issues, that the dosage leaves just a bit of pain, so I can feel when I am irritating the injury. Most understand and help me to adjust meds appropriately.

In short, ALWAYS listen to your body. Report
The timing of this information is remarkable. Yesterday I had another disagreement with my health care provider on this very subject. Approx 6 weeks ago, I rolled my ankle and sustained a chip in the bone and a severe sprain. I am already on three prescription medications for various non-related health issues and am reluctant to take ANYTHING more due to my concerns about Kidney damage and such.

When I first sustained the injury, he prescribed Motrin three times a day for two weeks stating that it was necessary to reduce the swelling to improve healing. Being the rebel that I am, I chose not to take any pain medication. At my follow up appointment yesterday he again stressed that I should be taking Motrin at the rate indicated for the same reason. I waited until this morning and took half the dosage he recommended. I was just working on SP, waiting to see if I would experience stomach issues or dizziness when I came across this blog.

I think that is the last dose of Motrin I'll be taking. My ankle is healing on schedule. The chip has mended and I am regaining flexibility due to physical therapy. I will continue to use ice if it swells or becomes painful.

I'm not advocating that everyone disregard the advice of their doctor based on "something they read on the internet". This article just reinforced what I've believed all along. Report
I appreciate this article. It gave me some new ideas to thing about Report
Thought provoking article, esp for those of us with CHRONIC pain, and then the occassional other pains that life brings. I am on a regimen right now that requires use of Ibuprofen when it gets unbearable, and when icing, heat, stretching, exercise, massage and adjustments don't do it...which is frequently but I agree; inflammation is the body's attempt to heal an area; it may or may not be an appropriate prompt, depending on the cause..and taking meds CAN cover up that reaction which we do need to heed. We are always needing to learn and to adjust to what we find.
Keep on keeping on!
Kat Report
Having had a back breaking job of cleaning client houses for 7 years, I would finish my day with a soak in the tub and Aleve... then I could sleep at night. Since I couldn't afford a new mattress, the Aleve did it's job so I could sleep uninterrupted with the potty exception.

Now that I am starting a running program for myself, and understanding how athletes will try to "get past the pain" for their individual goals, I am paying greater attention to my body's needs and if I am going to lose sleep over an aching back, I will take the Aleve... but abusing any drug is just plain stupid... Report
I sprained my ankle during spinning around the same time I was going through testing for lupus/rhumatoid arthritis. Because of the ridiculous amount of pain in my joints I was having, I was taking 12-16 Advil a day, under doctor supervision. When I was finally diagnosed, I was sent for physical therapy for my ankle and to get my range of motion back in my joints. Anyway, to make a long story short, my ankle was not healing correctly. The pt waited until I finished a 3 week course of steroids, and told me not to take any more anti-inflamatories. He had said the exact same thing this article talks about, and explained to me, that even though the steroids and advil were helping my joints, they were hindering the process with my ankle. Going off the anti-inflamatories was one of the best things I could have done. I now only take ibprophen for the occasional joint pain associated with my auto-immune, but not for gym and excercise related injuries. The pt explained that this is a much newer way of thinking, and it has helped a lot of his patients. I completely agree with this article, and really can relate to the author's story about the longer healing process. Report
Sorry, I don't agree with this. My prerogative.

Our family Orthopedic Surgeon does not believe that inflammation is healthy and he also doesn't believe that pain is good. He recommends anti-inflammatory meds after surgery. And also when my sister broke her ankle but didn't need surgery; he felt the anti-inflammatory meds were good for her and that she should not be experiencing pain.

The only part I might agree with is some people will not allow the limb to rest if they don't feel pain. When rest isn't enough, I see nothing wrong with taking anti-inflammatory pain medicines. Just my personal opinion.

But I won't let the dentist extract a tooth without numbing me first either. Report
I'm not anti anti-inflammatory, but I know that I use them more than I should. I'll probably continue to use them more than this current research reccommends, but it's a great reminder and wise advice.

When I trained for my marathon last summer I was taking ibproufen before, during, and after running during the last couple of weeks of training because of horrible shin splints. It was the only way I could run more than 2 miles without being in excruiating pain. In retrospect, it was absolutely stupid. Actually I knew it was stupid at the time. Really stupid.

I end up injured more than once a year so I need to start respecting what pain is trying to tell me rather than chewing more ibuprofen. I'm going to be really depressed if I can't run anymore because I've gone and made a mess of things.

Thanks for the blog - it will help me be a lifelong runner. Report
there was a good article in runners world a few months ago about this. It gave a lot of info on when its ok to take them, when its not, and what to take instead. Report
I never knew that about those drugs. For general reasons, I avoid them like the plague and always remember something that strongly impressed me YEARS AGO in a Chiropracter's Office = that one of the reasons they did not write prescriptions for pain pills was because they felt it was dangerous to mask the pain. Pain is the body's way of screaming out to us CAUTION! Body Healing.

Excellent article Nancy! Report
This is very informative. I am allergic to NSAIDS and the like so I don't take anything I use fish oils as a natural fighter against inflamation and have healed a recent bout of tendonitis in my hand with taking fish oil 3x a day. Report
This is really good to know. I am recovering from sciatica and Aleve was part of my morning regimen to make sure I didn't overly aggravate the nerve when I was easing back into elliptical exercise. Sounds like I should only use it on an as-needed basis rather than regularly. Report
Never heard that before. Thanks. I don't take ibuprofen for muscle pains too often. I take them a lot for headaches ,sometimes right before I exercise. I will be more careful, and aware now. Report
I had not heard that. Thanks for the info. I'm going to be more careful now. Report
I just got my bottle of prescription pain killers filled yesteday. Hm. I will be careful to stop when the pain starts and take one only if I extremely need it. Thanks for the info. Report
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