Taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and steroids for pain relief may increase your chances and are linked to developing chronic pain!
When you sustain an injury or infection, the body responds by releasing chemicals to clear and clean the area. This initial stage of healing causes swelling, increased warmth, and discomfort and is known as the inflammatory stage. Currently, the medical protocol would be to recommend anti-inflammatories to decrease the pain and swelling, and if the symptoms are significant, a 5-day steroid pack.
New research has shown that blocking inflammation with drugs can lead to harder-to-treat chronic pain. Taking anti-inflammatories and steroids was linked to chronic pain. Researchers in this study examined pain mechanisms in both humans and mice. They found that ‘neutrophils’ play a key role in resolving pain. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that has a broad variety of functions that include: the release of inflammatory mediators, fighting infection, removal of debris, and much more.
Inflammation plays a crucial role in resolving pain.
Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells. In healthy adults, they typically constitute about 50 to 70 percent of white blood cells and function as innate immune cells. They are the first line of defense against bacteria and other foreign organisms. Neutrophils respond to inflammation and fight bacteria mainly by their swallowing function (phagocytosis). They also release powerful chemicals that help with tissue healing after injury.
Opposite to our current understanding, pain resolution is an active biological process in which the inflammatory process uses neutrophil cells to stop the pain process. Taking anti-inflammatories and steroids are linked to developing chronic pain because they interfere with the healing process.
It is DANGEROUS to interfere with the INFLAMMATION process.
Neutrophils dominate the early stages of inflammation and set the stage for repairing tissue damage. Researchers found that when those with acute pain had a higher percentage of neutrophils, they were protected against chronic pain development. Inflammation occurs not only to clean and repair wounds but is also critical in reducing pain as the injury heals.
Their research found:
- NSAIDs increased the risk of continued back pain 2 to 6 years later.
- Experimentally blocking neutrophils in mice prolonged the pain up to 10 times the normal duration.
- 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.
Acute pain does not build in a progressive process to become chronic. Instead, it is an active biological process causing changes to occur in genes that results in the subsiding of pain.
Instead of Medicating, Proper Pain Treatment MUST Start with Identifying the Type of Pain:
Chemical, Mechanical, Thermal
Mechanical Pain occurs when stress is placed on a joint or soft tissue, such as when you bend your finger all the way back. If you go back far enough, you will feel pain. As soon as you release, the pain immediately abates. There is no injury or damage to the tissue. Bending your finger backward produces mechanical stress that causes pain. Movement in opposite direction relieves the pain. Mechanical pain is usually intermittent, but it can be constant as when the stress is constant – holding your finger backward.
When you have pain that comes and goes or changes with different movements and/or positions, it is mechanical.
Chemical pain is caused by the body’s inflammatory response to injury. It is a complex chemical reaction and occurs to aid the initial repair of tissue damage by releasing chemicals from the blood, fibroblasts, and local macrophages to clean up the area and start the healing process. An example of chemical pain would be hitting your thumb with a hammer or a toothache.
Chemical pain is described as throbbing, constant, and does not change with movement. Pain that comes and goes cannot be chemical. Back pain that is worse with sitting and bending but a bit better with walking is not chemical or inflammatory pain. It changes with movement and will not respond to chemical treatments such as anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers. Inflammation can be uncomfortable, but it is part of the miraculous natural healing process. It usually lasts only a few days. Symptoms of a localized injury that continue after a few weeks result from re-injury / re-tearing of poorly healed tissue or unresolved mechanical problems.
Treatment Differences Between Mechanical & Chemical Pain
Mechanical pain only responds to a mechanical treatment or a CHANGE of position or movement. Mechanical treatment must therefore be targeted to a specific joint or tissue to change that tissue’s current position or property. An example of a mechanical disorder would be a shoulder dislocation. A dislocation is very painful and requires heavy narcotics to mask the pain for relief. But, if you can relocate the shoulder, 90% of the pain is instantly resolved because the mechanical stress or dislocation is resolved.
Chemical pain is the result of the inflammatory process. The body releases chemicals to clear and clean the area to begin the healing process. This initial stage of healing causes swelling, increased warmth, and discomfort.
Medications can assist in decreasing the swelling and pain, BUT the inflammatory process has a vital role in cleaning the area and properly initiating the healing process. Our goal should be to manage this phase, NOT stop it.
Differentiating between pain caused by a mechanical or a chemical stimulus is critical. To get relief, you must first know if you need to remove mechanical stress or an inflammatory component. Chemical and Mechanical pain are different, and so are their treatments.
Only a correct diagnosis will produce the proper treatment and outcome.