If you go to your bathroom’s medicine cabinet right now, it’s likely you’ll find a bottle of Aspirin, Aleve, Advil, or something similar. These common over-the-counter medications are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. These kinds of drugs have been a part of our daily lives for decades, so you’d think they’d be good for us, right? Well, not always—especially for orthopedic injuries.
NSAIDs vs. Inflammation
For years, we’ve been told inflammation is a bad thing. This thought has been championed in commercials and other forms of marketing, and it’s been a popular belief in the medical community as well. NSAIDs have been recommended by doctors for decades to reduce inflammation in the body and temporarily alleviate pain. This is based on the idea that these NSAIDs would give patients with orthopedic injuries a faster recovery and easier return to normal function. However, studies in recent years have turned these prevailing thoughts upside down.
Instead, we now know that inflammation can actually be a GOOD thing, especially if it’s acute and temporary. It’s the natural way your body heals on its own. If you’re experiencing inflammation, this is a sign that your body’s healing mechanisms are working. And if prolonged inflammation persists, you’ll know that there are deeper issues afoot, allowing you to seek the additional medical help you need. Interestingly, inflammation is also used in regenerative medicine to help accelerate your healing as well.
Keeping this newfound shift on inflammation in mind, if you’re experiencing an orthopedic injury, how can taking NSAIDs actually prevent your healing?
1. NSAIDs slow the healing process
NSAIDs are often popular because they give us temporary relief when we need it. In a society that values instant gratification, this can be nice at the moment. However, when you’re struggling with broken bones, joint damage, or a soft tissue injury, taking NSAIDS can actually prolong your struggle by delaying your healing.
When an orthopedic injury occurs, inflammation begins to kick in, causing you to experience swelling, stiffness, and heat. As we’ve addressed in the previous section, this is a positive reaction, as your body is working to heal, protecting the affected area and repairing the damaged tissue. This inflammation brings additional blood, platelets, and other healing proteins to help your body’s recovery process.
However, when NSAIDs are taken, inflammation is hindered, blocking a necessary step in your body’s recovery (and keeping vital nutrients from reaching your damaged tissue). As a result, your overall healing is delayed, meaning a longer recovery time. So what may give you instant relief at the moment ironically creates further delay to your long-term gratification and return to the life you love.
2. NSAIDs block your pain
Yes, you read that right. At times, temporarily alleviating your pain when you’ve experienced an injury can have negative consequences. Though your pain is lifted at the moment, NSAIDs don’t get rid of your pain permanently (or heal your injury). Pain is the natural way your body tells you that it’s damaged. How many of us when we’re feeling pain use the injured area of our bodies more cautiously (or rest it altogether)? This awareness helps to keep us from doing things that will cause further damage to our injuries.
However, with NSAIDs temporarily blocking your feelings of pain, you may think you’re fine when you’re actually not. As a result, you could hurt the injured area more by using it as normal. Once the medicated pain relief wears off, the pain you experience could be even worse. Eventually, if you continue to unknowingly hurt the injured area of your body by using it as normal, the damage can be so bad that you can still experience pain at the moment even when you’re taking NSAIDs.
3. NSAIDs can cause damaging side effects
The potential side effects you could experience while taking NSAIDs can be another hindrance to your healing (and an unnecessary one), even with the short-term use of these drugs. NSAIDs are commonly linked to gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach and intestinal ulcers. In fact, NSAIDs are known to be a direct irritant to your stomach lining. Prolonged use can lead to severe and fatal GI bleeding (studies have shown that an estimated 16,500 deaths occur annually in the US from NSAIDs, primarily from GI issues). There is also growing evidence that links NSAID usage to increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
So instead of reaching for NSAIDs in the medicine cabinet when you’re struggling with orthopedic injuries, what are alternative treatments that can actually help with your long-term healing?
Alternative Treatments for Orthopedic Injuries
If you’re seeking a proper remedy for your orthopedic injury or dysfunction, we strongly recommend personalized regenerative medicine treatments, including cellular therapy and PRP injections. These approaches supercharge your body’s own natural healing processes to help you heal more efficiently.
Supporting inflammation instead of preventing it, regenerative orthopedic treatments inject highly-concentrated amounts of PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) and other cells into your injured area of the body. As a result, your body’s natural healing powers are given a boost. Before you know it, you’re well on your way to a speedy recovery.
Are You Ready to Experience Lasting Healing?
Your life shouldn’t be defined by pain or limitations. If you feel held back by the chronic struggles of injury or degenerative conditions, we can help. At the Albano Clinic here in Utah, our world-class physicians take a personalized approach toward healing your specific issue with PRP Therapy and other regenerative medicine that precisely targets your orthopedic injuries.
Join thousands of others who’ve reclaimed their lives with our regenerative orthopedic treatments. Schedule an appointment with us today to get started.