Essential Facts About Anti-Inflammatory Medications

Health Professional

Drugs that help to control inflammation have been around for centuries ever since willow bark was discovered to have the ability to control fever, pain and swelling.  In the 1800’s, the plant-based chemical found in willow bark was converted to Aspirin and the dawn of pharmaceutical-based anti-inflammatory medications began.

The use of Aspirin fell out of favor when ibuprofen was discovered in 1962.  The popularity of ibuprofen continues to this day because it is very effective at controlling inflammation, pain and swelling.  In todays drug market, there are many types of medications that do the same thing many of them are available without a prescription.  So it is essential to know a few facts before taking one.

Safety:

  • Don’t take these medications if you have a history of gastric ulcers or other conditions that put you at risk for bleeding.  Most anti-inflammatory medications like Aspirin will “thin” the blood.  Because these drugs also increase stomach acid production, bleeding stomach ulcers are a major risk when taking traditional anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Use caution if you have kidney problems.  Anti-inflammatory medications can be hard on the kidneys.  Many people confuse this fact thinking that these medications are hard on the liver.  That is not the case; only acetaminophen which is not an anti-inflammatory medication can be toxic to the liver in high doses.  Prolonged high doses of medications like ibuprofen have been known to shut the kidneys down.  This is why you should stay well hydrated when using anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Don’t take them every day for years on end.  The risk of the above mentioned side effects plus additional cardiovascular concerns increase the longer you take these medications.  Try using them only for a finite period of time like shortly after an accident, or only on bad days.

Purpose:

  • Anti-Inflammatory medications help to relieve acute pain.  Pain that comes on suddenly after an injury is called acute pain.  It is usually limited by the time it takes tissues to heal.  Soft tissue swelling and pain are relieved by taking these medications.  Sometimes nerve pain is relieved with these medications because nerves can be irritated by surround inflammation such as the case with “sciatica pain”.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications should not be used for chronic pain (pain lasting more than six months) because of the above mentioned safety concerns unless directed by your doctor.

Products:

  • Traditional Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) include ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, meloxicam and others.  These traditional drugs are most commonly used for ordinary situations necessitating inflammation control.
  • Cox-2 Inhibitors like Celebrex are less commonly used but are most effective in times when less gastric irritation and bleeding risk is desirable.  The drugs in the Cox-2 inhibitor class of anti-inflammatory medications do not increase stomach acid production or interfere with blood clotting.
  • Steroids:  The most powerful anti-inflammatory medications are steroids but rarely used for sustained periods of time because of strong side effects like osteoporosis, weight gain and dependency.  Most often the steroid medications are administered by injection into a painful joint.

Alternatives:

  • Turmeric is a natural spice known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • The anti-inflammatory diet is a wonderful way to control inflammation naturally with the foods you eat.

If you have any questions about this type of drug or any other drugs, please talk to your doctor or pharmacist to get the right answers for you.

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