“Inflammation comes from your body working to heal a microtear or microinjury from your workout,” says Alexis Chiang Colvin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai. good + good. Understandably, seeking to prevent or reduce muscle soreness and inflammation from exercise seems like a no-brainer. There are several ways you can go about it, from stretching to massage.
But if you’re thinking about popping some anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or aspirin before you exercise, there’s a very good reason you’ll want to put the cap back on the bottle, according to Todd McGrath, MD, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. .
“There is a thought that NSAIDS [or anti-inflammatories] can modify exercise-related discomfort and thus improve exercise performance; However, this is not true,” says Dr. McGrath. “The pathway by which exercise-induced muscle soreness occurs is not significantly altered by NSAIDs.” More importantly, he adds, there is some evidence that NSAIDs may actually be one negative Effects on muscle growth and exercise adaptation.
Five Reasons It’s Unsafe to Take Anti-Inflammatories Before a Workout
1. They disrupt your body’s natural healing process
According to Dr. McGrath, NSAIDs can inhibit the production of prostaglandins—a type of lipid that your body makes at the site of tissue damage—which can affect your intestines, kidneys, and heart. Prostaglandins help initiate the inflammatory response, as well as resolve it.
2. They can increase inflammation in the body
NSAIDS can alter blood flow to your intestines and increase the risk of both gastritis and gastrointestinal bleeding when combined with exercise. “This breakdown of the protective lining of your gut can also increase the absorption of toxins from your gut into your bloodstream and lead to a reversible increase in systemic inflammation,” says Dr. McGrath.
3. They can reduce blood flow to your kidneys
“Our kidneys are responsible for clearing the byproducts of exercise and metabolism from our blood,” explains Dr. McGrath. “Stopping it can lead to significant medical problems such as kidney failure or a condition called rhabdomyolysis.” Often called “rhabdo,” this condition involves the rapid breakdown of muscle tissue that releases proteins into our bloodstream, which can damage the kidneys. It is serious and can even be life-threatening if not treated early.
4. They can change the clotting ability of our blood
“Not just gastrointestinal bleeding problems,” says Dr. McGrath, “but also in athletes in collision sports.” High doses of anti-inflammatory or chronic use are especially problematic, he adds.
5. Use during exercise increases the risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death
Also, the overall death rate associated with exercise is higher with NSAID use, according to Dr. McGrath.
Is there a healthier, safer alternative?
While we’re not the type to promote a “no pain, no gain” mentality, it’s important to acknowledge that stress causes the body to adapt (ie get better, faster, stronger) to certain levels of discomfort and muscle soreness. Usually within the first 48 hours of a workout. “Remember that pain associated with exercise is not a bad thing,” says Dr. McGrath. “We shouldn’t try to blunt or change the body’s response to exercise.”
Still, Dr. McGrath says that in situations where you’re dealing with an injury that isn’t affected by your exercise but is painful, taking some form of pain relief may be necessary. “For example, a runner might have shoulder pain or other aches or pains not related to exercise, such as lightheadedness,” he says. Acetaminophen, which is not an anti-inflammatory, is generally safe, he said. (But even this should be done sparingly.)
Better yet, she suggests changing your activity and giving your body a chance to heal. “If you need to take a risky medication to exercise, it’s worth combining your exercise routine with non-pharmaceuticals,” says Dr. McGrath. This is a prescription for a safe relationship with long-term exercise.
If your legs and feet are your ailment, try this stretching session: