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Anti Inflammatory + Muscle Soreness = Good, Bad ... Ugly?

Updated on March 21, 2012

Reversing Muscle Build or Was it Building Muscle?

"Someone told me that it is not recommended to take anti-inflammatories for muscle soreness because it will actually reverse what your body is trying to do. Is that true?"

This is the question I received today. What's the answer? Well, there's some debate with this one. Many people out there like to dive into an anti- inflammatory to help them through the initial soreness they feel when beginning a new exercise regimen. This feeling is far beyond a "normal" soreness for some people, and can be pretty uncomfortable.

There's debate back and forth about whether using an anti-inflammatory helps to build muscle, or affects muscle development in any way. My professional opinion: no, it doesn't affect your muscle build. What it does is slows the process your body uses to relieve after-workout soreness and heal the muscles used during your workout.

For instance, if you are sore, and you take the typical 400 mg dosage of ibuprofen, you're body sees the help, takes it, and uses it to continue it's healing process. However, because you've offered it help, your body doesn't have to utilize all of it's natural processes.

This is the only hindrance I see in using an anti-inflammatory. If you are sore after a workout, and it's uncomfortable there are a few ways to help you feel better without resorting to pills.

  • Take a 10 minute walk. This may mean you are walking like a zombie for the first few minutes, but as your body starts to warm up, and circulation starts flowing easier through your body you start to feel better. Muscles aren't so sore and tense, and seem to move easier than they did a few minutes before.
  • Repeat the workout that caused the soreness. Use the same resistance modalities, if possible. This helps work the same muscle fibers, and fascia, causing blood and oxygen to circulate directly through the sore area.
  • Drink more water than you normally do, or drink an electrolyte based drink (water charged with electrolytes does not count people!). This helps to flush your system with added hydration, helping your blood circulate, and pushing oxygen into the sore area. Helping to work out the knots without pressure.
  • Practice yoga or stretch for at least 20 minutes. Be sure to do some dynamic stretching before you start with static stretches. This helps to workout the area as well - warming your body, and working opposing muscles to those which are currently sore.

My clients love the above tips, you should also try to avoid high sodium foods during the first few weeks of a new exercise regimen. This helps prevent cramping. All of these really boil down to, if necessary take an anti-inflammatory. If at all possible, the BEST cure for muscle soreness is movement. It means sucking it up a bit during the first few weeks at times, but after that you shouldn't feel that horrible soreness again. Unless of course you change things up dramatically. Your body will get used to your new exercise regimen and will work with you by helping heal muscle fibers, preventing soreness rather than causing it.

Our body's natural processes really are phenomenal tools, if we learn how to use them properly. Take the time to let your body get used to your new routine, you will be so proud of the results!


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