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Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Does it Promote Healing?

At QualCare Rehabilitation, our patients often ask if over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) would be useful for them after sustaining a painful injury. The next question is often whether these pills help heal an injury or simply mask pain symptoms. The short answer to this question is that NSAIDs help you heal, prevent further damage, and mask pain. However, because every patient’s circumstances are different, the answer to this question varies depending on their circumstances and the cause of their inflammation.

NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandins, a substance that increases pain due to inflammation. By blocking the effects of prostaglandins, NSAIDs help relive pain and can bring down fever. It’s important to note, however, that not all NSAID medications are the same. For instance, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can relieve pain, but they are not useful for inflammation.

Why Inflammation Occurs

The body triggers inflammation as a way to protect itself after an injury or other form of irritation, and elicits a pain response. Inflammation is the result of the immune cells responding to damage caused to the body, which could be anything from a stubbed toe to a fever or a traumatic injury. NSAIDs can be used for these conditions, but the pills are likely only able to treat pain rather than the direct cause of the injury. NSAIDs may have a curative effect by effectively reducing swelling caused by prolonged tissue damage, such as in arthritis. The pills are also effective in treating back pain, menstrual cramps, and headaches.

What Is the Difference Between NSAIDs and Steroids?

For most conditions, NSAIDs are preferred to the man-made drugs called steroids, because of the associated side effects of steroids and the risks of long-term use. Steroids may be used to treat inflammation caused by an overactive immune system, like with autoimmune disorders such as lupus or Crohn’s disease. The reasons steroids are used for autoimmune disorders is to drastically suppress the immune system and help heal the body. Most patients who have sustained an injury are not good candidates for steroidal medications.

Ask Your Doctor Before Treating an Injury with Medication

If you have an injury, it’s important to discuss the treatment regimen with your doctor. Your injury may require more than over-the-counter pain medication to achieve optimal pain relief and return of function. A customized treatment plan with your doctor or pain management specialists can address your specific issues and concerns so you can find the best treatment course to meet your unique needs.

If you would like further information about our pain management approach at QualCare Rehabilitation, please contact us today at (713) 588-0042!