Additionally, no investigations report that athletes return to their sport faster when using ibuprofen to assist with a soft tissue injury.
What if You Need NSAIDs to Make It Through a Workout?
Epidemiological research from competitive athletes and military personnel show that over 65 percent of these individuals use NSAIDs prior to competition or a workout. Most users admit that they use NSAIDs to dull the pain of racing or to prevent a serious injury from bothering them during a race or a long workout.
Similar to the data from exercise-induced muscle damage, taking NSAIDs before a race is not going to have a significant impact on your pain perception. More importantly, science or not, pain is one of the best guides for whether or not to keep training when you sustain an injury. Masking the pain of an injury almost always leads to more serious and prolonged injuries.
When is It OK to Take an NSAID?
One NSAID a day to keep the pain away should never be your motto. Instead, use NSAIDs during the first few days of an acute injury such as after a hamstring strain, in response to an acute bout of tendonitis or immediately following an ankle sprain. In cases such as these, NSAIDs will help with the healing process.
When Take NSAIDs?
Unfortunately, scientists don't yet know why NSAIDs are beneficial in some cases and not in others—specifically, why they are bad in response to normal inflammation (i.e. after a workout) and good in response to excessive inflammation (i.e. sprained ankle).
To date, the data supports the claim that NSAIDs are beneficial in the first 48 hours following an acute injury and contributes to the overall healing process.
The bottom line: if you sustain an acute injury while training, take NSAIDs according to the directions for 48 to 72 hours. After 72 hours, allow your body's natural healing mechanisms to take the reins. However, if you are using an NSAID as a daily vitamin, stop. There is no benefit to take an NSAID daily and you are likely hindering your adaptation, recovery, and overall performance.
Sign up for your next race.