Anti-Inflammatories and their role in the healing process

Inflammation is a natural response to an injury in the body. I know a lot of people out there, including myself a lot of the time, like to avoid taking pills or medications of any kind. Anti-inflammatories and icing (a natural anti-inflammation measure) are both prescribed when it comes to common sports injuries. Through a little bit of research, I wanted to share the “why” behind it…

The inflammation process in the body is part of the natural healing process. It’s a time when the body rushes a lot of fluid to the injured area for lots of different reasons. The fluid contains clotting factors to help stop any kind of bleeding, it helps to build an internal “scab” if you will, to lay the ground work for repair, and the fluid also contains things that help eliminate damaged tissue. (I am drastically over-simplifying of course) However, if inflammation remains, the body cannot move on to the next phase of healing which is when the body rebuilds. The rebuilding phase of healing is also known as the proliferation phase.

The most natural anti-inflammatory measure one can take is to STOP. Cease doing anything and everything that causes the pain to recur. In my experience, the athletes and everyday exercisers I encounter are the most averse to this, the simplest and easiest of action steps for healing. I myself am guilty of wanting to “keep going”. This especially happens when the pain isn’t “that bad”. You’ve all said it!! This is where icing and medicine come in to play. It helps to mitigate any recurring inflammation as we continue to move and be active. It helps to clear out the inflammation we continue to generate as we refuse to stop.

Before I continue, let me first say that sometimes it is impossible to stop all activity altogether. I myself have a minor tweak in the back of my rotator cuff from a yoga class a few weeks ago. I have a 30 pound child at home who is 20 months old and requires lifting into and out of cribs, high chairs, car seats, and out of the way of his big sister at times. Some of you have children, some of you have jobs requiring you to continue to move or use your injured body part. Sometimes it is just impossible to give our bodies the required amount of rest to heal on its own. Know that if you can’t stop, it is inevitable that you will drag out the healing process. If you could devote some focused time to healing, that would certainly help you out!

In the meantime, for those who can’t stop, icing and anti-inflammatories is a smart way to go. The pills help clear out the excess inflammation from the inside, and the ice helps from the outside. Icing should be performed directly after exercise or a time of using the affected body part. It can also be done at the end of the day. I try to ice at least 3x a day when I have an injury. Medicinally, as long as you’re symptomatic, follow the instructions of your favorite anti-inflammatory. The most common over the counter ones have the names Aleve (or Naproxen Sodium as the generic) and Advil or Motrin (both types of Ibuprofen). My personal favorite is Advil caplets, simply because that smooth sugar coating helps me swallow the pills, and when I can’t get them down right away, prevents me from getting the nasty powdery and sour Ibuprofen taste in my mouth.

Remember also, that I am a personal trainer and NOT a doctor. These words are my opinion and are certainly not a prescription!

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