Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs like ibuprofen, aspirin are being consumed more than ever before. Not only are these drugs recommended for severe pain and fever in illnesses, but are finding a way into our shelves for minor aches and pains more than ever before. Popping a NSAID for a mild headache is now a common strategy to avoid any discomfort, and even recreational and professional athletes have increased their consumption in the recent years. The problem, however, occurs when NSAIDs are taken for managing mild or no pain, or just as a measure to avoid the occurrence of pain for a long duration of time.
NSAIDs are used to relieve pain and reduce signs of inflammation like fever swelling and redness. People may take NSAIDs for temporary conditions such as s sprain strain, back pain etc.
Long-term use of NSAIDs has been shown to cause more harm than good and this is even more worrisome with the ever-increasing consumption of NSAIDs. The inflammation and pain after injury is the result of prostaglandin production by the COX enzymes. NSAIDs target the COX enzymes thereby limiting the production of prostaglandins and hence diffusing pain and discomfort. It all sounds good but there is a twist in the tale, that is, COX enzyme leads to the productions of growth factors, which drive tissue repair and adaptation. NSAID overconsumption thus interferes with tissue repair mechanisms and proves to be detrimental to the body unless suggested by the medical professional.
After an injury, our body’s healing mechanism kicks in which comprises of three phases. Inflammatory, repair and remodeling.
Inflammation is usually considered a bad thing as it causes pain, swelling, redness and warmth around the injured area. However, it is our body’s way of protecting itself. Inflammation leads to an increase in blood flow, which helps transport nutrients to the injured area to help with repair and recovery.
If you are experiencing mild inflammation and pain resort to icing for the first 72 hours after injury. If at all required you can use NSAIDs during that time. Consuming NSAIDs for a longer duration after the injury unless absolutely recommended by a medical professional can do more harm than good. If you are taking painkillers before workouts to avoid feeling sore, it is a bad strategy. Long-term use of NSAIDs will lead to strength loss and skeletal muscle injury. Think before you pop that pill, for sometimes pain is not that bad after all.