Painkillers Could Actually Make Back Pain Worse

Inflammation is often one of the culprits behind pain, chronic disease, and other disorders like Arthritis. But some types of inflammation are actually necessary for our healing. A new study reveals that suppressing this type of inflammation could lead to more significant problems down the road.

The study focused on people who suffer from back pain. According to the CDC, it’s a common problem worldwide, with 25% of U.S. adults saying they had low back pain in the previous three months.

Researchers examined pain in both humans and mice. They found that a type of white blood cell called neutrophils plays a crucial role in resolving pain. These neutrophils are essential for repairing tissue damage during the early stages of inflammation.

The researchers found that blocking these neutrophils in mice prolonged pain 10-fold. They also found that anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids like ibuprofen, typically used to treat pain, also blocked the necessary repairing action of this inflammatory response to heal the injury in question.

What could happen as a result? While these medications offer relief from acute pain, they may increase a person’s chances of developing long-term chronic pain because the injury itself never heals properly.

“For many decades, it’s been standard medical practice to treat pain with anti-inflammatory drugs,” Jeffrey Mogil, a psychology professor at McGill University, said. “But we found that this short-term fix could lead to longer-term problems.”

The authors also cited an analysis of 500,000 people in the United Kingdom that found those taking anti-inflammatory drugs for pain were more likely to have pain 2 to 10 years later.

Exercise and non-drug therapies should always be the first line of defense for treating back pain, but these do not always work to alleviate a person’s problem.

More research is needed, but the conventional drug-based treatments for pain may be up for debate based on these findings.

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