Sunday, January 16, 2011

Take two and you WILL be calling me in the morning

Use aspirin analogs (or other NSAIDs like motrin and Aleve) have been touted as half of the gold standard of the first aid of sports injuries. However such drugs might not be the gold standard it is cracked up to be.

Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acidwas dicovered in 1827 when a crude product was extracted from willow bark. In 1844, another related chemical was extracted from the oil of Gaultheria (oil of wintergreen). This related compound is still used today an an ingredient of liniments, such as Ben-Gay. Aspirin in the form we know today was introduced in 1899. This inexpensive "wonder drug became a staple of medicine chests worldwide.

An oral dose is absorbed rapidly through the stomach and small intestines and is bound to blood proteins. Apreciable amounts can be detected in the blood within 30 minutes with peak amounts in about 2 hours. It is removed from our bodies by the kidneys and, to a lesser extent, the liver.

In even low doses, asprin analogs makes platelets (a component of blood) less sticky. This is good for ailments where stickiness causes clots like heart attacks and strokes. However it is negative when talking about a fresh musculo-skeletal injury. Excessive bleeding into the injury site causes hematoma formation which can delay healing or even cause incomplete healing.

At higher doses of these drugs you mask mild to moderate pain. It takes even higher doses to reduce imflammation. However, even if you dose yourself correctly to adress the imflammation, this might not be a good thing. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic recently published a study that adds to growing evidence that swelling actually plays a key role in healing soft-tissue injuries. The result is a classic tradeoff between short-term and long-term benefits: reducing swelling with ice or drugs may ease your pain now, but slow down your ultimate return to full strength.

When you sustain an injury, your body’s first response is to send cells called macrophages to clear away the damaged cells by literally digesting them. This initiates a complex process of repair and regeneration that triggers swelling, in part because macrophage-induced damage pokes holes in the muscle membrane, allowing fluid to rush in.

What the Cleveland study showed is that these macrophages, in addition to causing swelling, are also the primary source of “insulin-like growth factor-1,” which crucial to the growth hormone process which rebuilds our body tissues. If you take away the swelling, you also lose the growth factor.

This finding offers an explanation for clinical evidence about the double-edged effects of otherr anti-inflammatory drugs that has been mounting for several years. A review published last month in The Lancet found that injections of cortisone, a powerful anti-inflammatory steroid, brought initial relief for tendon injuries such as tennis elbow, but produced significantly worse outcomes six and 12 months later compared with patients who did nothing or performed physiotherapy exercises.

There is a use for anti-imflamatory drugs in certain situations. However, there are many more cases of abuse where the short term clouds the long term. So take two and you WILL be calling me in the morning.

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