Exercise, eccentric contractions, acute trauma, and disease are all causal mechanisms of skeletal muscle injury. After skeletal muscle is injured, it undergoes sequential phases of degeneration, inflammation, regeneration, and fibrosis. Events that occur in response to inflammation trigger regenerative processes. However, since inflammation causes pain, decreases skeletal muscle function, has a negative effect on performance, and contributes to fibrosis, which is one of the leading causes of delayed regeneration, the general practice has been to reduce inflammation. The problem with this approach is that preventing inflammation may hinder recovery. Current treatment options for inflammation are not necessarily effective and, in some cases, they may be unsafe. This review focuses on the question of whether the most beneficial course of treatment should be to block inflammation or if it is sensible to allow inflammatory processes to progress naturally. If blocking inflammation is perceived as a beneficial approach, it is not yet known at what time point during the inflammatory response it is most sensible to interfere. To address these issues, this review evaluates the effects of various anti-inflammatory agents on recovery processes in response to exercise-induced, traumatic, and disease-associated models of skeletal muscle injury. A collective analysis such as this should lay the foundation for future work that systematically manipulates the inflammatory response to most effectively promote regeneration and functional recovery in injured skeletal muscle, while reducing the negative effects of inflammatory processes such as pain and fibrosis.
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