Suppressing Short-Term Pain Can Lead to Chronic Pain

In our society, it’s all too common to reach for quick fixes to reduce pain when it arises – usually NSAIDS or even steroids to block the natural inflammation that comes with pain. However, new research from McGill University and colleagues suggests that repeated pain-blocking meds increase the likelihood of chronic pain.

Researchers have looked into pain in humans as well as mice and discovered that we all have neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) that work to reduce pain naturally.

“Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repair of tissue damage. Inflammation occurs for a reason, and it looks like it’s dangerous to interfere with it,” says Jeffrey Mogil, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University and E. P. Taylor Chair in Pain Studies.

Researchers noted that blocking neutrophils in mice extended their pain as much as 10x longer. Scientists agree that it’s time to look at other options for reducing pain, providing immediate relief that won’t set the patient up for painful consequences down the line.

The process of pain resolution itself provides healing. Like other discomforts in life (e.g., grief, uncertainty), while it can be uncomfortable to sit with pain, we shouldn’t shut down or block the process by which it resolves.

In the case of inflammation, allowing neutrophils to reduce pain gradually provides long-term healing on a genomic and cellular level. “Luckily, pain can be killed in other ways that don’t involve interfering with inflammation.” – Massimo Allegri, Physician at the Policlinico of Monza Hospital in Italy.

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