A recent study conducted by scientists at McGill University suggests that using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain may actually increase the likelihood of developing chronic pain.
The study challenges conventional practices used to alleviate pain, which typically involve the use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
For many decades, treating pain with anti-inflammatory drugs has been a standard medical practice.
However, the new study found that this short-term fix could lead to longer-term problems.
The research suggests that normal recovery from a painful injury involves inflammation, and blocking that inflammation with drugs could actually lead to harder-to-treat pain.
In the study, the researchers examined the mechanisms of pain in both humans and mice.
They found that neutrophils, which are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection, play a key role in resolving pain.
When the researchers experimentally blocked neutrophils in mice, they found that the pain was prolonged up to ten times the normal duration.
The study also found that treating pain with anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids, such as dexamethasone and diclofenac, produced the same result, even though they were effective against pain early on.
The findings are 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.
The research suggests that it may be time to reconsider the way acute pain is treated. Luckily, pain can be relieved in other ways that don’t involve interfering with inflammation.
The study’s authors note that the findings should be followed up by clinical trials directly comparing anti-inflammatory drugs to other painkillers that relieve aches and pains but don’t disrupt inflammation.
The hope is that these trials will lead to new, more effective treatments for pain that do not have the same negative side effects associated with anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids.
Overall, the study highlights the importance of taking a careful approach to pain management, and of exploring all available treatment options before resorting to drugs that may do more harm than good in the long run.
How to manage chronic pain
Managing chronic pain can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can help:
Medications: Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and antidepressants can help alleviate chronic pain. However, these medications should be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help reduce chronic pain by improving strength, flexibility, and range of motion. A physical therapist can also teach you exercises that can help alleviate pain.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points in the body to alleviate pain.
Mind-body techniques: Mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can worsen chronic pain.
TENS therapy: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy involves the use of a small device that delivers electrical impulses to the nerves to alleviate pain.
Heat and cold therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help alleviate pain. Heat therapy can help relax muscles, while cold therapy can reduce inflammation.
It is important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized treatment plan for chronic pain management.
The research was published in Science Translational Medicine and was conducted by Jeffrey Mogil et al.
If you care about pain, please read studies about why cholesterol-lowering drug statins can cause muscle pain, and new device to treat pain without using drugs.
For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that common painkiller ibuprofen may strongly influence your liver, and Jarlsberg cheese could help prevent bone thinning disease.
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