Inflammation impacts cell health and has been linked to insulin resistance. It can lead to chronic high blood sugar. However, inflammation is a natural process in the body. It’s your body’s attempt to fight off viruses and infections and fix injuries. We need healthy inflammation reactions. It’s chronic inflammation that is a problem. Now, scientists have learned that using anti-inflammatory pain killers and steroids may give people short-term benefits but long-term chronic pain.
“Inflammation is a normal part of healing and when that inflammation is blocked, healing can become disrupted,” said Dr. Cory Fernandes of Laredo Medical Center. “The healing process is complex and it’s important to consider how to best help the process without causing any long-term complications.”
Anti-inflammatory drugs are incredibly common. While they may sound like something you get from your doctor, Advil is an anti-inflammatory. Because the use of the drugs is so widespread, it’s crucial to know more about how they impact people. The new study used 98 people with lower back pain. The researcher divided the people into two groups: those who were fine within three months of their first problem and those who were still suffering.
The researchers found that people whose pain got better had a much larger inflammation reaction during “acute pain.” For a couple of days after their injury, they had larger inflammatory responses. That suggested to the researchers that allowing the inflammation process to occur unhindered helps people recover from pain faster and more thoroughly.
To test their theory, they turned to mice. They caused pain in the mice and then treated the pain with five different pain medications, two of which were anti-inflammatories. All five drugs helped the mice with short-term pain symptoms. Only the mice on anti-inflammatories developed chronic pain.
Finally, they looked at data from a large group of patients with lower back pain. The most significant risk for developing chronic problems was the use of drugs that stopped inflammation. “People who used [anti-inflammatory drugs] at acute back pain stages had a 1.7 times higher probability of having chronic pain two to 10 years later,” said Dr. Luda Diatchenko, a renowned pain researcher at McGill Univ.
Managing pain through heating and cooling, ointments, exercise, massages or acupuncture may be better. Some of these methods can even speed healing. Ice packs reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels. The heat from a bath or warming pad relaxes muscles and increases blow flow to injuries. Both warmth and cold have healing benefits. Another option is a medication like Tylenol, which doesn’t impact inflammation but does ease pain symptoms.
“Consult with your physician before starting any pain relief medicines to determine what treatment is best for you and your particular type of pain,” says Dr. Fernandes.