You’ve probably heard of Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, and Naproxen. What you may not know is that these classes of medication are collectively referred to as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. They inhibit an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), whose function is integral to the inflammatory cascade. Inflammation is the body’s way of repairing injured tissues by dilating blood vessels and recruiting new cells to the area of injury. As a result, what you feel is pain warmth, swelling, and redness – often your first indication that an injury has taken place and healing is under way. Think back to any time you physically overexerted yourself or went for a long run without properly warming up or training. You typically don’t feel pain or discomfort until the next day because it takes 12-24 hours for the inflammatory cascade to get under way. The pain you feel is caused not by the injury or overuse, but rather by your body’s response to the injury.
Unfortunately, most people living in today’s world want everything to happen faster and have little patience for letting their bodies acclimate to the sudden shifts in their lifestyle. As a result, they use anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling, allowing them to continue the high intensity activities that cause re-injury and progressive damage to their muscles, tendons, and joints. This is not a good use of NSAIDs and can result in the accumulation of significant damage requiring more invasive treatment.
On the other hand, there are instances in which the body’s natural healing mechanism goes unchecked despite rest and activity modification. This can occur when there is a more significant injury and inflammation alone is insufficient to adequately heal the tissues (i.e. hip abductor tear, hamstring tear, labrum tear). These more significant injuries can create a state of chronic inflammation that actually ends up being detrimental. NSAIDs are useful in these circumstances to manage the inflammation that has gone unchecked.
There are countless benefits to leading an active lifestyle. The best way to enjoy these benefits is through a gradual and progressive increase in your participation, using NSAIDs judiciously to overcome chronic inflammation when rest and activity modification alone are insufficient.
Dr. Tigran Garabekyan is a board certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip preservation. To learn more about Southern California Hip Institute or to schedule a consultation, click here to contact us. Serving patients in Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale, West Hollywood, Century City, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and other neighboring cities in the greater Los Angeles area.