Pop a Pill or See a Doc?
The Problem: You're signed up for a spin class tonight, but your legs are aching from yesterday's challenging workout.
Pill or Doc? Neither. If you're tempted to pop an OTC painkiller to power through your next exercise session, know this: A study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that runners who took ibuprofen before and during a race to reduce muscle soreness actually experienced an increase in inflammation. The study was done on ultramarathoners, but "this can happen to anyone who exercises," says coauthor David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University. "Our research suggests that the best medicine is fruits, vegetables, and fish. These foods are rich in compounds like flavonoids and omega-3s, which are naturally anti-inflammatory." For immediate relief, icing three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes can help reduce soreness. If discomfort lasts more than a week, head to your doctor to rule out serious injury.
The Problem: You get headaches almost daily. They aren't as bad as migraines, but you can't remember the last time you didn't take something to ease the throbbing.
Pill or Doc? Doc. Taking OTC pain meds at least 15 days a month for more than three months can increase the risk of chronic headaches, because overuse of medication can lead to changes in the pain-processing regions of the brain. Laying off the painkillers will likely lead to more intense pounders for a few days, but getting the meds out of your system should put an end to the vicious cycle.
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