NSAIDs, or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are part of the fitness world and training. These are effective for pain and inflammation because they block the chemical response the body sends out when we are injured. This can be a good thing as it allows for us to move on with our life and able to train without the nuisance of pain. NSAIDs are asprin (Bayer, Bufferin), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not considered part of this group. With so much information out there about these over the counter drugs it’s hard to get facts straight. Just like any other drug, they can be over done if you are not careful. Here are some things to keep in mind when determining when and how much to take in relation to your training.
If you are thinking your next workout is going to be tough and by taking some ibuprofen before it will offset any possible pain you may get, you are wrong. NSAIDs do not work well in that capacity and extensive use this way can increase the risk of serious injury. While no one wants to deal with the nuisance of pain it is part of the body’s natural response system and is what allows you to be able to adapt and overcome to new stimulus brought on by training. Extensive use of NSAIDs can inhibit this process and not allow the body to recover and heal itself without the aid of drugs. So let the body do what it was made to do and do not try to overcompensate by confusing minor aches and pains with injury.
There is not a clear cut answer here but research has shown that NSAIDs are not particularly effective to relieving pain as much in post recovery. As stated in the paragraph above, the body has the capability to recover, adapt, and grow. By pumping your system full of NSAIDs immediately after the workout you can inhibit this process and the body is then forced to rely on these drugs in order to recover. Ice, stretching, and compression have all been shown to help reduce inflammation and swelling from training. But the best medicine is adequate rest after a workout. Allow your body to recover by feeding it with adequate nutrients, hydrating, and getting plenty of rest. When you train and put stresses on your body it starts the adaptation process that allow you to get stronger, better, etc. By allowing proper rest from training you are letting this process take full effect and will be able to get back into the gym better than when you left.
For athletes and gym warriors, NSAIDs are best used when rehabbing from an injury. They can help keep pain and inflammation under control so they do not interfere with the rehab process itself. For issues such as muscle and joint sprains NSAIDs are a key component in the recovery process (along with other modalities mentioned earlier), but there is research out there that has stated that abuse can lead to ligament and tendon weakening. When taking NSAIDs make sure to follow your physician’s directions and take the recommended dose. Studies have also shown other side effects of overuse of NSAIDs, but as stated earlier anything can be bad for you when it is abused. So use your brain and read the labels before putting these chemicals in your body.
Our opinion is that NSAIDs are helpful and can provide relief to the body if used under the proper circumstances. With that being said we feel that they should be used as a last resort for relief. There are plenty of other modalities that can be used to recover from brutal training that are as effective as NSAIDs and do not require introducing a foreign substance to the body. Before doing anything, educate yourself so you can make an educated decision on what is best for you.