I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the following scenario: A new patient comes in with a long-standing, chronic problem. When I ask them what they’re doing to help it, they reply with “Advil/Motrin/Ibuprofen/Naproxen/Aleve/Aspirin” etc. At this point, I say, “Wait a minute, how often are you taking them and how long have you been on them?”. I’ve heard patients tell me that they take those kinds of medications as many as 2-4 times per day, often for decades! The fact that someone, somewhere, perhaps even a medical professional, told them that was “OK” makes me cringe because I know the damage this has likely wrought on their body.
This type of chronic use is alarming because of the tremendous harm it can do to the body. The “minor” side effects of taking these drugs include nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and rashes, to name a few. Then you look at long-term use, and you see side effects such as kidney and/or liver failure, or even stomach ulcers. Basically, these drugs are wreaking havoc on the body’s most important organ systems – the entire digestive system, as well as the kidneys and liver.
The effects of these medications on the body’s organ systems are staggering. However, it’s also worth noting what happens to the joints and musculoskeletal system while on these medications – the precise thing the patient is typically trying to help by taking the anti-inflammatory. The first thing to understand is how these drugs work – they are designed to reduce inflammation. Inflammation has come to be seen as the “bad guy” in a lot of different health problems, but we need to first understand that there really is a reason the body causes inflammation in the first place.
The next thing to understand is how the body heals – that is, how it repairs micro-injuries (the little things we do every day that stress our joints and muscles), as well as macro-injuries (bigger events such as broken bones, sprain/strain injuries, car accidents, and wounds). Healing takes place in multiple stages, as follows:
For our purposes in this article, we want to emphasize that Stage 1 of the healing process is inflammation. In order for healing to complete, each stage must run its full course. If any of them are incomplete, healing will also be incomplete. The end result is weakened tissue.
Imagine you have a job that is very physical, which means you are accumulating microtrauma every day. Your body will need to be in an optimal state to be given the best chance to overcome the inflammatory stage and fully complete the healing process. Now imagine that you also take a medication every day that stops your body from properly healing. It’s not hard to see how, in the long run, your tissues will become weaker. This will naturally lead you to want to take more and more medication to try and address the worsening symptoms. Rather quickly, 2 Aleve a day becomes 4, then 8 a day as symptoms stack up. If the healing process is chronically stalled, symptoms may become severe enough for a doctor to prescribe you something stronger, such as opioids. As you can see, the above process is a slippery slope, that has certainly contributed to the opioid addiction problem in our country, and could potentially be avoided if the public understood the importance of the stages of healing.
I sympathize with anyone who has gotten into this cycle. They’re simply doing their best to make it through their day. There is a better way, though. I’ve personally seen countless people break this cycle and get off their medications, whether we are strictly talking about anti-inflammatories or medications for other chronic diseases. Once you address the root cause of why the patient is having problems in the first place, rather than only treating the symptoms, you can eliminate the need for the medications. At Accel Chiropractic, our unique approach allows us to find the underlying causes of so many of these problems. If you, or a friend or family member, are relying on medications to treat physical symptoms, we encourage you to contact our office and schedule your initial consultation to find out if we can help!