Effects of anti-inflammatory (NSAID) treatment on human tendinopathic tissue

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Nov 1;123(5):1397-1405. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00281.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used to treat tendinopathy, but evidence for this treatment is lacking, and little is known regarding effects of NSAIDs on human tendinopathic tendon. This study investigated the effects of NSAID treatment (ibuprofen) on human tendinopathic tendon, with changes in gene expression as the primary outcome, and tendon pain, function, and blood flow as secondary outcomes. Twenty-six adults (16 men, 10 women), diagnosed with chronic Achilles tendinopathy, were randomized to 1-wk treatment with ibuprofen (600 mg ×3/day) (n = 13) or placebo (n = 13) (double-blinded). Ibuprofen content in blood, visual analog scale score for tendon pain at rest and activity, Victorian Institute of Sports Assessment-Achilles (VISA-A) scores for tendon function, tendon thickness (with ultrasonography), and color Doppler were measured before and 1 h after treatment. After the last posttreatment test, a full-width tendon biopsy was taken from the affected area. Real-time-RT-PCR was used to assess expression of collagen I, collagen III, transforming growth factor (TGF-β) isoforms, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), angiopoietin-like 4 (ANGPTL4), and cyclic AMP-dependent transcription factor (ATF3) in tendon tissue. Expression of collagens and TGF-β isoforms showed relatively low variation and was unaffected by ibuprofen treatment. Further, no changes were seen in tendon thickness or VISA-A score. The placebo treatment reduced the color Doppler (in tendon plus surrounding tissue) compared with the ibuprofen group and also increased the perception of pain at rest. In conclusion, there was no indication that short-term ibuprofen treatment affects gene expression in human chronic tendinopathic tendon or leads to any clear changes in tendon pain or function.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are widely used in the treatment of tendinopathy, but little is known of the effects of these drugs on tendon tissue. We find that 1 wk of ibuprofen treatment has no effect on gene expression of collagen and related growth factors in adult human tendinopathic tendon in vivo (in spite of relatively low levels of variation in gene expression), suggesting that tendinopathic cells are not responsive to ibuprofen.

Keywords: gene expression; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; tendinopathy; tendon pain; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 3 / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Tendinopathy / drug therapy*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Ultrasonography


  • ATF3 protein, human
  • Activating Transcription Factor 3
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Collagen
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Ibuprofen