Weekend warriors should be wary of over-the-counter painkillers

Health • Rest and recovery better than working through the pain
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I recently wrote an article — published in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune — that looked at the extensive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by collegiate gymnasts.

In case you missed it, more and more studies are showing the use of such drugs, which includes ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen, can cause long-term damage, particularly to the digestive system.

This idea probably comes as a surprise to many since these drugs are readily available. They all come with warnings, but who really reads the packaging, right?

While the story focused on gymnasts, the problem is common in all sports. And I would argue that it is even more common among weekend warriors than collegiate athletes.

Those who compete for schools have trainers and coaches who hopefully educate the athletes on the potential side effects. They also often follow a fairly strict training regimen, which includes rest days.

Those who are compete on their own schedules don't get that professional guidance.

In fact, for the average person, there often is a temptation to push through pain or ignore it to get that one last workout in for the week. Those much needed recovery days, down times when damaged muscle tissue is allowed to recover and thereby get stronger, are never added to the schedule.

The other common mistake among gym rats is approaching workouts with the wrong mental outlook. Too often I hear people say they need a hard workout because they burn off the calories from poor food choices.

This might not be a bad thing once in a while, but if this your overall approach then your outlook has to be changed — particularly if you require a pain killer to get through a workout.

Working out is not about punishing your body, but making it stronger. Ideally, one will make good choices to have better workouts. The old adage, 'garbage in, garbage out,' stays true.

Remember, pain is the body's way of telling us something is wrong and we should stop.

Taking a pill masks our body's natural safety net. Interestingly, more and more doctors are agreeing with this approach, even for athletes who might have a competition in the near future and feel they have to 'push through,' it.

Without the use of drugs one can feel how the body is affected by an exercise and perhaps avoid further damage as a result.

The other benefit of going drugless is to avoid possible damage to the digestive system or kidneys.

With the right approach an athlete could help their digestive system and lessen the inflammation at the same time.

David Nieman, a professor at Appalachian State University who has studied the effects of ibuprofen use among athletes, now is researching for natural resources to help with inflammation.

So far his research has shown a mix of the flavonoid quercetin, Omega-3s and green tea extract provide the best benefit.

Instead of popping a pill, have a nice piece of wild salmon that is full of Omega-3s cooked with some onions and broccoli (which contains quercetin), followed by a cup of green tea. Add in some fresh blueberries or blackberries for dessert.

That meal doesn't sound painful at all, does it?

Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. E-mail her at Lwodraska@sltrib.com. Twitter: http://twitter.com/LyaWodraska