Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Do NSAIDs Speed the Rate of Healing of Tendinitis?

Many athletes routinely use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen and ibuprofen to blunt pain and hopefully shorten the recovery time from acute tendon injuries, called tendinitis. But are the NSAIDs really helpful other than that they blunt the pain? Do they speed the healing process?

Apparently not, according to an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. For starters, tendinitis is actually a misnomer; "-itis" means inflammation, and researchers have found that although tendon injury generally is characterized by pain and swelling, it is actually not accompanied by the appearance of the immune cells normally associated with inflammation. Therefore, what we tend to call tendinitis should probably be called tendinopathy ("-pathy" means injury). And while the NSAIDs do block the pain associated with tendinopathy, they also inhibit the release of prostaglandins which are normally involved in the production of collagen, thought to be necessary for tendon repair. So if anything, NSAIDs are more likely to slow the healing process than speed it up.

So, what to do? It's probably okay to take NSAIDs over the short-term (up to a week) to relieve acute pain. In the long term, gentle stretching and light weight-bearing exercise of the injured tendon will do more good than continued use of NSAIDs. Consult your doctor or physical therapist for the final word on your particular situation.

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