Recent research has shown that taking anti inflammatory medication inhibits the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Slowing down the group of cells that move into the injured area to repair and restore the damaged cells. Inhibiting and prolonging the overall recovery process.
The use of anti-inflammatories post soft tissue injury
Soft tissue injuries are those that involve acute tissue damage to your muscles, ligaments or tendons due to a sudden incident (e.g. hamstring tear, calf strain or ankle sprain).
Acute tissue injuries are followed by a process of inflammation for three to five days, after which the healing process begins. It is common for anti-inflammatory medication to be prescribed after an injury, to reduce the impact that inflammation has on the healthy tissue that surrounds the injured area. Recent research suggests that dampening the inflammatory process may delay the healing of the injured tissue.
What happens when an injury occurs
When an injury occurs, there are a series of changes that occur at a cellular level. This process begins with trauma, causing notification to the immune system of the damage by a complex cascade of pain producing chemicals, and a disruption to the blood flow.
3 groups of cells move into the area
1. ‘The control panel’: that guides the recruitment of inflammatory cells through different phases of healing.
2. ‘Cleaners’: that are responsible for ‘cleaning up’ the tissue.
3. ‘Construction workers’: the cells that multiply, then change composition to rebuild your muscle tissue.
After this, ‘the control panel’ reduces the number of ‘cleaning’ cells in the area which allows the ‘construction’ cells to begin to form normal muscle tissue (usually occurring between four to seven days post injury).
What taking anti inflammatory medication does
Taking anti-inflammatory medication reduces the ability of ‘the control panel’ to recruit the ‘cleaning’ cells into the area. As the ‘cleaning’ cells can cause secondary damage to healthy tissue, anti-inflammatory medication was regularly prescribed to preserve surrounding tissue.
Recent research has found that reducing the effectiveness of the ‘cleaners’ slows the ability of the ‘construction workers’ to repair the injured tissue. This results in a delay in healing time and can compromise the quality of the repaired tissue.
Anti inflammatory medication can do more harm than good
Now, this research isn’t suggesting that we should do away with anti-inflammatory medication altogether, though we should consider whether it could be doing more harm than good in the long run.
Taking these medications within the first three days of an acute soft tissue injury may impair your body’s ability to naturally heal.
For more advice on acute injury management, you can read through my previous blog PEACE & LOVE for soft tissue injuries and seek advice from your Physiotherapist.
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This blog was written by Gemma Harkness, Physio from the Burnside Physio practice.