Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Muscle Soreness

Conventional wisdom tells us that when you have soreness, you should take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Advil (Ibuprofen) to relieve the pain. A study published at the 2012 annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism suggests that taking NSAIDs may actually prolong pain from muscle soreness, rather than alleviate it.

Subjects were subjected to a workout equivalent to walking downstairs from the top of a 100 story building. Next, they were administered twice-daily doses of one of two major NSAIDs or a placebo. The findings were surprising, to say the least.

The difference between the NSAID and the placebo was so small as to be almost insignificant. But most striking is that fact that the stronger of the two NSAIDs was actually shown to inhibit muscle recovery, actually adding to the total days required for complete recovery (5 days, versus 4 days for the placebo). These results suggest that the soreness and inflammation associated with strenuous exercise may be an essential part of muscle recovery that does not respond to NSAIDs the way other types of inflammation do.

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