According to Canadian researchers at McGill University and Italian scientists, using anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to relieve pain could increase the chances of developing chronic pain. Their research calls into question conventional practices used to alleviate pain and lends support for the value of non-medical approaches like chiropractic care.
In the study published in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers examined the mechanisms of pain in both humans and mice. They found that a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection called neutrophils play a key role in resolving pain.
Neutrophils are very active in the early stages of inflammation and initiate the tissue repair process. So it makes sense that interfering with these important cells could potentially cause problems.
In the study, researchers found that 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.
The obvious implications of these findings are that acute muscle and joint pain should be managed conservatively as much as possible. This is yet another reason why chiropractic care should be the first treatment choice for back pain.