Do you sometimes wake up to a numb or tingling feeling in your joints? Is bending over or kneeling to pick up stuff on the ground sometimes painful for you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Body aches and pains are common among people who are getting on in age, mature athletes included.
How NSAIDSs Work to Block Pain
To relieve pain caused by conditions such as arthritis, headaches, and a range of physical injuries, most people usually take NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Often prescribed for chronic pain, these drugs can be easily purchased over-the-counter at the local pharmacy.
NSAIDs work by preventing the body from producing prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is basically a chemical released by the body during the early inflammation phase of healing. For example, when you sprain your ankle, you’ll notice that the injured area becomes very painful. It starts to swell up and become reddish and warm to the touch. This is because of prostaglandin. NSAIDs block prostaglandin to reduce swelling and make the pain more bearable for you.
Temporary Relief, Long-Term Effect
While this may bring you temporary relief, researchers have found that preventing the release of prostaglandin may actually be bad for you in the long run. According to studies, if you take NSAIDs that inhibit the release of prostaglandin during the early healing phase of an injury, you are disrupting the body’s natural healing process and blocking the size of the healing stage required for the complete remodeling of the damaged tissue to occur.
In short, by taking prostaglandin inhibitors like NSAIDs, you are preventing your body from providing you with the best results possible.
Ankle Sprain Study Shows NSAIDs’ Effect
In the late 1970s, there was a study called the Kapooka Ankle Sprain Study. Referenced in many medical journals, it was a military study that involved recruits who had sprained their ankle. As part of the study, half of the recruits took NSAIDs while the other half took placebo. Those who took NSAIDs got back to marching sooner and with less pain and swelling as compared to the recruits who took placebo. As a result, the study has been used back then as proof that NSAIDs indeed work.
However, at the end of the study, which is long before doctors understood the importance of inflammation in the healing process, it has been found that the recruits who took placebo had fewer pain-related problems in the long run. Also, their post-study examination revealed that their ankles were much stronger and more stable.
FDA Strengthens Warning Vs. NSAIDs
Thanks to recent medical advancements, the negative long-term effects of taking NSAIDs have been exposed. We are now aware that athletes who took anti-inflammatory drugs have 30% to 40% risk of developing ankle instability. In a funny twist of events, the study that once was used to champion NSAIDs is now being used as evidence to show how these drugs can disrupt the natural healing of a ligament.
Consequent studies also shed light on the other negative side-effects of NSAIDs. Just recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strengthened its warning against NSAIDs. They revealed that these drugs can cause an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, especially when taken in higher doses. NSAIDs have also been reported to cause stomach bleeding and ulcers, increased bleeding while taking the drugs, headaches, dizziness, allergic reactions, liver or kidney problems, high blood pressure, and swelling in the leg.
If you often experience chronic pain brought about by a medical condition or physical injury, it is therefore best to avoid NSAIDs. Look for alternative medications or treatments to avoid their negative side-effects that can lead to serious health problems.