Short-term use of ibuprofen may increase chance of chronic pain, study suggests

Researchers say more research needed into possible link between anti-inflammatory drugs and longer-term problems such as back pain

THE GUARDIAN – Using drugs like ibuprofen and steroids to relieve short-term health problems could increase the chances of developing chronic pain, new research suggests.

The findings from the small study indicate that it could be time to reconsider how pain is treated.

Normal recovery from a painful injury involves inflammation – the body’s natural reaction to injury and infection – and new research suggests blocking inflammation with drugs could lead to harder-to-treat issues.

It may be that inflammation has a protective effect, such as preventing acute pain from becoming chronic, and that overly reducing it may be harmful.

Researchers said lower-back pain was the most commonly reported form of chronic pain – pain that persists for longer than would be expected after the injury – and resulted in massive economic and medical costs each year.

“The theory is that inflammation may have a protective effect in the long-term, and that overly reducing inflammation may be harmful.” Prof Blair Smith, University of Dundee 

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Jeffrey Mogil, a professor of pain studies at McGill University in Canada, said:

“While ibuprofen was not studied explicitly in either the human or the mouse data (in the mouse we used diclofenac), as ibuprofen is so common in the UK, it is highly likely that a large percentage of those in the UK Biobank who reported taking ‘NSAIDs’ (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were in fact taking ibuprofen.”

Most patients receive standard treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and corticosteroids.

But these drugs are only somewhat effective, and little is known about why acute pain, which begins suddenly in response to something specific, is resolved in some patients but persists as chronic pain in others.

To understand the transition from acute to chronic lower-back pain, researchers followed 98 patients with acute lower-back pain for three months … read more. 

“Advil was the leading name-brand internal analgesic tablet in the United States in 2019, not including private label.” – Statista, Apr 21, 2021

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