Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID’s) helps control excessive inflammation in the injured runner and promote an early return to running without detrimental effect to tissues.
The inflammatory process is the initial phase in the body’s natural healing process after an injury from trauma or overuse. Taking NSAID’s inhibits this process, resulting in weaker, more vulnerable tissue in the medium term.
Stages of Healing
When tissue damage occurs, a cascade of chemical reactions is initiated, beginning with the Inflammatory Phase which peaks around 72 hours. Pain, swelling, heat and loss of function are noted throughout this time as the body sends “cleaner” cells to the injured area to mop up damaged cells and tissues. This inflammatory phase triggers the second Proliferation Stage on Day 4 during which tissue repair and reconstruction begins.
The final phase of healing is the Remodelling Stage around Day 14 post-injury when new tissue becomes stronger and its quality increases.
For more detail on the physiology behind this, read Lina Englund’s previous post on the Stages of Healing
Anti-Inflammatory Medication (NSAID’s)
NSAID’s such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen and Naproxen inhibit the activity of Cyclo-oxygenase (COX-1 and COX-2) interfering with the inflammatory phase of healing causing reduced pain and swelling. Although these effects are desirable, recent research shows that disrupting this natural process results in delayed healing and a reduced tensile strength of new tissue (bone, muscles and tendons) after taking anti-inflammatory medication.
Taking anti-inflammatory medication whether it’s prescription or over the counter should be avoided as much as possible after acute or overuse running injuries. The natural inflammatory process promotes healing and rebuilding of high quality, strong tissue. As with any running injury, it is advisable to seek the help of a health professional to determine the diagnosis and subsequent treatment required to optimize healing and return to running.
Stay tuned for #TeamJina’s LAST POST by @LinaEnglundPT next Tuesday where she will discuss hydration and running.
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References, Picture Credit: “New Trends in the Prevention of Running Injuries” – Blaise Dubois BScPT based on several scientific publications available on request.