Are Painkillers Hurting MORE than Helping?

Are Painkillers Hurting MORE than Helping?

The old standard doctor’s line of “Take two Aspirin and call me in the morning” may be doing you more harm than good.  Most people turn to over-the-counter pain killers for the everyday aches and pains.  But, what most don’t know is that these and stronger pain meds have serious effects on the healing process. 

As a Fort Collins Chiropractor, I challenge patients to think twice before popping pills to relieve their pain.  Pain is your body’s proverbial check engine light.  You wouldn’t put a piece of tape over your car’s check engine light would you, so why would you want to cover up your body’s warning sign?  I would challenge you to address the underlying cause of your problem and not just the symptom.

Painkillers slow healing

            One of the reasons I hear over and over is: “I took it to reduce the swelling.”  Research shows us that painkillers do reduce inflammation as well as the immune response which is vital to the healing process[i].  When the inflammation is reduced by non-natural means it hinders the repair process.  The body doesn’t see it as severe and doesn’t send as many white blood cells to the area to clean up the damaged tissues, which means your injury is going to take longer to heal.

Tendon Repair

Tendons connect your muscles to your bones.  In a six week study on MCL repair,  the tendons of those taking Celebrex were 32% weaker than those taking nothing at all[ii].  NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflamitory drugs) are split into two main categories COX-1 inhibitors like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen and COX-2 inhibitors like Celebrex. 

At Yale they did study on rotator cuff tendons that were surgically repaired.  The first group received COX-2 for 14 days, the second group received COX-1 for 14 days, and the third group (control) received no medication.  The first two groups showed slower healing times and h five tendons completely failed to heal.  On the contrary no tendons in the medication free group failed to heal.[iii]

Bone Repair

            Painkillers also have a dramatic impact on repairing fractures.  A study in Boston concluded that Tordol which inhibits both COX-1&2 pathways seriously slows fracture repair.[iv]  While even a short period of taking COX-2 painkillers during the early phases of a break showed a delay in bone repair.[v]  The COX 1 & 2 pathways are vital for all types of different tissue repair, even creating new capillary blood vessels.[vi]  The blood is the essential transport system for providing necessary nutrients for the body’s repair processes.  

Chronic Pain and Headaches

            A trend in research is appearing linking painkillers to chronic headaches.  Those taking 15+ painkillers a month are 7 times more likely to have chronic headaches.  Chronic over users were 10.3 times likely to report migraines[vii]  Ongoing research suggests that painkillers decrease sensitivity to pain over time.  Consequently, long-term usage may trigger other chronic conditions like neck or low back pain and fibromyalgia.

Chiropractic Can Help!

Pain is one of your body’s warning signs, and shows up when you have a problem.  Chiropractors are trained to read many of your body’s warning signs and correlate them to your nervous system.  We address this nervous system dysfunction by adjusting subluxations in your body.  The next time you are experiencing pain, remember to think twice. 

Our office has helped many patients just like you.  Call our Fort Collins Chiropractic office at 970-491-9191, we can help you with your pain!



[i] Busti AJ, Hooper JS, Amaya CJ, Kazi S.  Effects of perioperative anti inflammatory and immunomodulating therapy on surgical wound healing.  Pharmacotherapy  2005; 25:1566-91.

[ii] Irrgang J, Anderson A, Boland A, et al.  Development and Validation of the International Knee Documentation Committee Subjective Knee Form.  Am J Sports Med.  2001;29 no. 5 600-613.

[iii] Cohen DB, Kawamura S, Ehteshami  JR, et al.  Indomethacin and celecoxib impair rotator cuff tendon-to-bone healing.  Am J Sports Med. 2006; 34:362-9.

[iv] Gerstenfeld LC, Thiede M, Seibert K, et al. Differential inhibition of fracture healing by non-selective and cyclooxygenase-2 selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. J Orthop Res. 2003;21:670–5.

[v]Endo K, Sairyo K, Komatsubara S, et al. Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor delays fracture healing in rats. Acta Orthopaedica 2005;76:470-4.

[vi] P E C Brenchley, Angiogensis in inflammatory joint disease: a target for therapeutic intervention.  Nature Medicine 1999; 5:1418-23.

[vii] Zwart JA, Dyb G, Hagen K, et al. Analgesic overuse among subjects with headache, neck and low-back pain. Neurology,  2004;62:1540-44

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