Vitamin I

Ibuprofen. This NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) has been held in such high esteem that the standard Rest Ice Compress Elevate protocol should have been spelled R-I-I-C-E. In all seriousness consuming an anti-inflammatory drug is bad for you. It makes tendons and ligaments weaker and prevents muscles from getting stronger.

NSAIDs are generally understood to work by inhibiting the production of cyclooxygenase (COX) and therefore the synthesis of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are localized chemical messengers that regulate the inflammatory process. Swelling and the production of prostaglandin signals the cells floating around in your body that are responsible for repairing and reinforcing damaged tissue to come to the site of injury.

That soreness you are feeling after a hard workout is self inflicted micro-trauma to your muscle tissue. It’s an inflammatory response that is physically making your muscles stronger. Why would you want to stop this process from happening by taking NSAIDs?

NSAIDs don’t just mess up your training effect, they are really really bad for you. NSAIDs can delay the healing of all soft tissues including, muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage, regardless of how much of a blood supply the tissue have. A research article appearing in the Archives of Internal Medicine describes how the use of the NSAID, Piroxicam, effectively eliminated the inflammatory proliferative phase (days 0-4) of healing. At day 2 the study noted a lack of macrophages (cells responsible for cleaning up the dead and injured tissue) at the site of the muscle strain. By day 4 there was very little muscle regeneration as compared to the normal healing process where no NSAIDs were taken. (Greene, J. Cost-conscious prescribing of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for adults with arthritis. Archieves of Internal medicine. 1992; 152:1995-2005.)

But Tylenol (Acetaminophen) isn’t much better even though it is not an NSAID. Acetaminophen is responsible for 3 times as many cases of liver failure as all other drugs combined and is the number 1 cause of acute liver failure in the US! Consuming alcohol, even with the recommended dose, has been linked to irreversible liver damage. Seriously think twice before popping a pill for muscle soreness or your hang-over. You are seriously messing up your body.

What do you do about ACUTE inflammation? Ice. What do you do about exercise induced muscle soreness? Enjoy it! Be proud of yourself for pushing so hard you can’t even sit in the toilet without using your hands to lower yourself, or walk down a flight of stairs. The best thing you can do for yourself after a hard workout is to go spin a bike, take a brisk walk with your dog or a slow 10+ minute mile pace jog. Warm up your body to a light sweat then go mobilize your soft tissue.    



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