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Injuries and Medical Advice

Fingers: NSAID Treatment

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I busted my A2 pulley during a trip to Hueco and would like to start taking some anti-inflammatory medication to bring my finger down to size. I was told not to take any as it may affect bone re-growth in the leg I broke several months ago. Am I allowed?

Peter Allison | Christchurch, New Zealand

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are bandied around like Halloween candy. Though I would love to have some ammunition to discourage their widespread use, not a shred of reasonable evidence says that the short-term use of NSAIDs has a significant effect on fracture healing, though many web pages report that they do.

One theory says that if you pop a pimple in the triangle of death (your face), a potentially fatal infection could be carried to your brain via a circuitous blood-borne route. It’s never happened. So my theory is that their theory is crapola. Equally, there is a theoretical avenue for NSAIDs, via prostaglandin inhibition, to adversely affect bone healing in the few weeks after fracture but, like zit-death, this doesn’t seem to be realized in the real world.

Steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as cortisone and Prednisone definitely impede fracture healing. So does smoking, drinking lots of Coca Cola, or whining to your PT about how painful your rehab is.

As far as current peer review suggests, if there is an effect of short-term use, it’s not worth thinking too hard about. Aside from that, hot/cold therapy on your finger will be just as effective as NSAIDs and, last I checked, the only reported side effects are related to spillage.

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