Natural Antiinflammatory Agents for Pain Relief in Athletes

Joseph C. Maroon, M.D.; Jeffrey W. Bost, P.A.-C.; Meghan K. Borden; Keith M. Lorenz; Nathan A. Ross


Neurosurg Focus. 2006;21(4) 

In This Article


Traumatic musculoskeletal and discogenic injuries are commonly associated with sports participation. Inflammation with pain, swelling, and erythema is the body's natural response to injury. In an attempt to reduce pain and swelling, athletes often use antiinflammatory agents that act on the arachidonic acid/COX and the NF-κB pathways mediating inflammation. Unfortunately, pharmacological agents designed to interfere with these pathways often have undesirable side effects such as gastric ulceration and, infrequently, myocardial infarction and stroke.

For centuries, natural antiinflammatory agents have been used to mediate the inflammatory process. More recently, many of these have been found to reduce inflammation in a similar manner to pharmacological agents but often with fewer side effects. We have briefly reviewed the pharmacology of several plant-derived natural drugs that could reduce costs and side effects in patients who use them, with similar effectiveness in treating the inflammatory reaction to trauma. Ongoing experiments and clinical trials for several of these medications are needed, and we hope such trials will provide the scientific basis for the effectiveness of agents that have been used empirically for centuries to reduce inflammation.


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