NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; think Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac to name a few) have become a first line of treatment for many people in pain.
For headaches, fevers and acute injuries they can be immensely helpful. But there are many people who cannot take NSAIDS or prefer not to use medications when possible. There are also a host of other side effects from these medications that can be mild and irritating to severe and life threatening.
A new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine shared great news for those who struggle with pain.
Research About NSAIDs & Exercise for Pain
Researchers found that there was no difference in pain control between use of NSAIDS and paracetamol vs. exercise for pain relief. What does this mean?
It means that exercise had the same effect as common over the counter pain medications on hip and knee joint pain. It also means that the harmful effects of some medications including stomach pain and ulcers, increased risk of bleeding, and heart attack, can be avoided.
Exercise is Medicine
One of the conclusions of the report was that “Exercise is Medicine”. This has been shown for difficult diagnoses, even for chronic pain. During exercise, our brains can produce potent chemicals that have a calming effect on our nerves. As Adriaan Louw shared in his book on the neuroscience of pain, “after approximately 10 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, the brain produces more of a calming effect on the nerves. Pumping blood and oxygen around nerves also calms them down.”
Ten minutes of exercise is a reachable goal for nearly everyone! The next time you find yourself reaching for an over the counter pain medicine, consider a 10 minute walk followed by a few minutes of stretching. Not only will you avoid unnecessary medications and side effects, you will also be promoting your health, improving your fitness, and decreasing your pain.
If you experience pain or are concerned about how weakness may affect your function, mobility, and pain, go see a physical or occupational therapist! (Book an appointment with us here!) Not sure where to begin? Check out this resource from Rafi on how to incorporate daily exercises into your life . This brief course provides some basic information about exercise and how to develop your own home exercise routine.
And when in doubt, schedule an appointment with a physical therapist today!
 Comparative efficacy of exercise therapy and oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and paracetamol for knee or hip osteoarthritis: a network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2023/01/02/bjsports-2022-105898
 Why Do I Hurt? Adriaan Louw. Available here.