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The Inflammation Discombobulation

by Robyn Chuter

Do nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs turn acute pain into chronic pain?

In last week’s article, Osteoarthritis: Curse of old age or plague of modernity?, I discussed the concerning finding that people with osteoarthritis who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen regularly, end up with worse joint inflammation and cartilage quality that those who do not use NSAIDs.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition. Are NSAIDs any better for acute pain – that is, pain that comes on abruptly – such as a sprained ankle, muscle tear or sudden-onset low back or jaw pain? NSAIDs are widely used by the public, and recommended by doctors, for exactly this purpose. For example, both the National Prescribing Service (NPS) and the Emergency Care Institute recommend the use of NSAIDs for acute low back pain.

But an international team of researchers, drawing on data from animal experiments and human patients with low back pain or temporomandibular disorder, have concluded that the use of NSAIDs for acute pain conditions could increase the risk of developing chronic pain.

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