Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are popular with athletes because they decrease pain and inflammation. A review of literature by Katy Lilly concluded that NSAIDs should be used with caution because they can have severe side effects and affect healing rates differently in bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles following injury.
In muscles, NSAIDs reduce pain but slow the repair process. NSAIDs are most beneficial following ligament injuries, because they speed rehab rates and decrease pain. They are less useful for treating tendonitis because the degree of inflammation is small in injured tendons. NSAIDs are not recommended for bone injuries because the drugs block prostaglandins, which are important for bone growth and fracture healing. NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal ulcers and kidney failure, so they should be used with caution.
Dr. Lilly suggested that alternative means of treating musculoskeletal injuries might include NSAID creams, which reduce whole-body side effects, and increased use of acetaminophen to reduce pain. However, acetaminophen toxicity is the chief cause of poisoning in America. (Current Sports Medicine Reports, 9: 103-105, 2010)