For as long as you can remember, I’m sure you were told that if anything hurt or you were getting a fever that Advil (or any other anti-inflammatory) was the way to make you feel better. As someone who has had the flu multiple times I can assure you that I agree with most of that above sentiment. The only problem I have with taking an anti-inflammatory is that they do exactly what they’re supposed to do- they take away inflammation.
Yes, that sounds a little ludicrous to be mad at a medicine for what it’s made to do, but hear me out. As I mentioned before, I agree that in times of severe whole-body inflammation (any sickness) an anti-inflammatory is the way to go. However, my stance changes when it comes to pain, especially associated with exercise and resistance training. Inflammation is a part of exercising and pushing your body. When someone’s system is pushed beyond its limits the body is in a state of alarm, all resulting from it not wanting to die. Yes, your one hour workout isn’t going to kill you, but your body doesn’t know how long that workout is going to last. All your body knows is survival and in that alarm phase it builds up inflammation from all the processes going on to stay alive and keep the body moving.
Before going on, let me say that inflammation can be both bad and good. In the case of sickness: bad. In the case of exercise: good and bad. It’s a little tedious to try and distinguish it and therefore I try to make it simple to my clients and athletes. If there’s pain and soreness for more than 4 days, there may be an issue and therefore I would recommend taking that anti-inflammatory along with other preemptive measures. On the other hand, if there’s soreness for 2-3 days and it’s getting better every day that passes- stay away from the Advil. That is good inflammation! The good inflammation is the one that gets your muscles sore and stresses your nervous system just the right amount. Good inflammation reminds your body of the damage you’ve done to it during your training, it allows for adaptations that can either be increased muscle mass, bone mass, strengthening of heart and lungs and a decrease in body fat, or a combination of them all.
The main message to take home is to wait a couple of days before you decide to take your Advil or ibuprofen. You could have just been pushed to your limits in a workout designed by your personal trainer and/or strength coach. If you were pushed too much and you’re really sore and hurting, take a walk. Active recovery is the best way to recover and it’s been shown to reduce stiffness and soreness. Inflammation is your friend, use it to your advantage.
(Written by Coach Khalil Harrison )