When you injure yourself and are in pain, the obvious thing to do is reach for pain killer, as no one likes being in pain. In my house there are usually 2 types of painkiller, paracetamol and ibuprofen. Paracetamol is great if you have a temperature as it will bring it down, ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory so great for strains and sprains…or is it?
When you have a soft tissue injury the damage has phases of repair, the first phase is inflammation. This lasts about 3-5 days. Inflammation is an important part of the repair process, it’s not just there to cause pain.
Pain is there for a reason, it’s there to tell your body that there is damage, if you can’t weight bare on your ankle, it’s possible that your ankle is too weak and if you do weight bare you will do more damage and prolong the repair time.
Inflammation is also there for a reason. The swelling increases the size of the capillaries which allows more blood to get to the area, increasing blood flow is a good thing. Inflammation also triggers the body’s immune system so protects the body against infection from bacteria and viruses.
By taking anti-inflammatories or using ice to reduce inflammation you are preventing the body from healing itself and are potentially prolonging your recovery.
It’s not to say that you should never take anti-inflammatories. Severe inflammation can be dangerous so it’s about finding a balance and taking medical advice. If your doctor prescribes you anti-inflammatories then take them but it isn’t necessary to immediately ice a sprain or strain as has been advised in the past as there is evidence that this can slow down recovery.
The human body has been very well designed to heal itself and sometimes we need to allow it to do its job.