In a recent study from McGill University, scientists found that using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain could increase the chances of developing chronic pain.
They found normal recovery from a painful injury involves inflammation and blocking that inflammation with drugs could lead to harder-to-treat pain.
The study puts into question conventional practices used to alleviate pain.
For many decades it’s been a standard medical practice to treat pain with anti-inflammatory drugs. But this study found that this short-term fix could lead to longer-term problems
In the study, researchers examined the mechanisms of pain in both humans and mice. They found that neutrophils—a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection—play a key role in resolving pain.
Experimentally blocking neutrophils in mice prolonged the pain up to ten times the normal duration.
Treating the pain with anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids like dexamethasone and diclofenac also produced the same result, although they were effective against pain early on.
These findings are also supported by a separate analysis of 500,000 people in the United Kingdom that showed that those taking anti-inflammatory drugs to treat their pain were more likely to have pain two to ten years later, an effect not seen in people taking acetaminophen or anti-depressants.
These findings suggest it may be time to reconsider the way we treat acute pain. Luckily pain can be killed in other ways that don’t involve interfering with inflammation.
The team says the findings should be followed up by clinical trials directly comparing anti-inflammatory drugs to other pain killers that relieve aches and pains but don’t disrupt inflammation.
If you care about pain, please read studies about how to live pain-free with arthritis, and dental pain? Reach for the anti-inflammatories, not the antibiotics.
For more information about pain, please see recent studies about why long COVID can cause pain, and results showing vitamin D3 could help people fight against COVID-19.
The research is published in Science Translational Medicine and was conducted by Jeffrey Mogil et al.
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