Low back pain is the most commonly reported form of chronic pain, resulting in massive economic and medical costs to patients and society every year, according to scientists
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Taking ibuprofen for a bad back may actually prolong the pain, new research suggests.
Researchers found that Britons taking such nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were 76% more likely to have pain lasting longer than three months than those taking paracetamol.
They suspect that the inflammation that pills like ibuprofen curb actually has a protective effect that helps relieve back pain.
Scientists say large human clinical trials should now be launched to confirm the theory and warn against avoiding NSAIDS entirely.
Low back pain is the most commonly reported form of chronic pain, resulting in massive economic and medical costs to patients and society every year.
The author dr. Luda Diatchenko of McGill University in Canada said: “The biggest revelation for me was that we always think of pain as an active pathological process happening to us.
“But if you look at the data now, it’s the opposite. It’s an active adaptive process that takes place in people resolving pain, and having chronic pain is the lack of that.”
The team followed 98 patients suffering from back pain. Those in whom it resolved within three months had highly active neutrophil-driven inflammatory responses.
They then analyzed the UK Biobank database of 500,000 participants and found a 76% higher risk of persistent pain than those taking pain-relieving but not anti-inflammatory drugs.
A third study in mice found that anti-inflammatory drugs prolonged pain over the long term.
Prof Blair Smith of Dundee University said: ‘This is excellent science.
“This excellent group of researchers not only found that factors associated with the normal inflammatory response are likely to protect people with acute low back pain from progressing to chronic low back pain, but also tested the hypothesis by examining whether an artificial reduction in inflammation could be achieved persistent pain led mice, which it did.
“They then tested whether drugs known to reduce inflammation are associated with long-term pain in humans, which they found to be the case.
“The theory is that inflammation can have a protective effect over the long term and that over-reducing inflammation can be harmful.”
The NHS says back pain is very common and usually gets better within a few weeks or months.
In addition to ibuprofen, it recommends cold compression packs, hot water bottles, and says sufferers should try to stay active and continue their daily activities.
dr Franziska Denk, Senior Lecturer at King’s College London, said: “Exactly how inflammation affects chronic back pain is a crucial question and the authors must be commended for generating a large dataset in this area.
“This study is a wonderful start to providing an answer to that question, but it now needs to be replicated and further investigated by other scientists.”
“It would definitely be premature to make any recommendations regarding human medication until we have results from a prospective clinical study.
“In my opinion, this study shouldn’t spark a debate about the use of NSAIDs for back pain — much more research is needed to first confirm these findings.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/taking-ibuprofen-treat-bad-back-26938557 Taking ibuprofen to treat back pain "might prolong pain," according to a new study