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Recovery and Repair – are pain killers the answer?

There is an alarming number of people now who are using pain killers to help with recovery.  Athletes believe that by masking the pain they are able to train for longer and harder and therefore make greater gains.  Understanding how pain killers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol work here is key.  Ibuprofen has inflammatory inhibiting attributes that help control inflammation during injury.  However, inflammation is a key part of the healing and repair phase and essential for the migration of satellite cells which rush to any area of damage and start repairing the injured site.

Ibuprofen consumption essentially prevents to inflammatory effect from happening which can give a relative relief of pain, however, the issue is that you cannot separate the inflammatory response from having an effect on healing response.  This is why many surgeons avoid administering this after surgery.

There is now a huge trend though of athletes using this medication to try and aid performance.  Many athletes have also developed psychological issues with the belief that if they stop taking this medication then they will ultimately end up injured.  There have been some very good studies which have shown that in fact your actual risk of injury increases because your bodies natural healing of micro trauma is inhibited and is therefore not remodelling itself accordingly.  The other thing to take note of is the effect these medications can have on the Kidneys.  This is particularly important if exercising in hot conditions where your kidneys are going to be heavily used during it.

In summary, non steroidal medications, such as ibuprofen, have their place in pain management.  Reducing inflammation will reduce the pressure on pain receptors and therefore improve athlete/client comfort…..however, it must also be noted that this will ultimately affect healing time and possibly how good the healing  is.

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