Ibuprofen Usage May Increase the Chance of Chronic Pain
The findings from the study insist to reconsider how pain is treated. 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.
Jeffrey Mogil, McGill University, Canada, said: “While ibuprofen was not studied explicitly in either the human or the mouse data (diclofenac in the case of mouse), 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.”
Researchers said lower back pain was the most commonly reported form of chronic pain and resulted in massive economic and medical costs each year. Most patients receive standard NSAIDs treatments such as ibuprofen and corticosteroids. But these drugs are only moderately 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 3 months. They also examined the mechanisms of pain in both humans and mice, and found that neutrophils – a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection – play a key role in resolving pain. Blocking these cells in mice prolonged the pain for up to 10 times the normal duration.
Treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids such as dexamethasone and diclofenac also produced the same result, although they were effective against pain early on.
Researchers said the findings were supported by a separate analysis of 500,000 people in the UK Biobank study, which showed that those taking anti-inflammatory drugs were more likely to have pain 2 to 10 years later. This effect was not seen in people taking paracetamol or antidepressants.
Dr. Franziska Denk, King’s College London, said: “It would most definitely be premature to make any recommendations regarding people’s medication until we have results of a prospectively designed clinical trial.”
Prof. Blair Smith, University of Dundee, said: “The theory is that inflammation may have a protective effect in the long-term, and that overly reducing inflammation may be harmful.
“However, it is important to note that this is just one study, and more research is needed to confirm and investigate this further.”
This findings are published in Science Translational Medicine.