How anti-inflammatories work


Prostaglandins. I always thought that word sounded a bit rude – and they were in fact first isolated from semen in the 1930s by a Swedish scientist – but it turns out that these are hormone-like chemicals that play a central role in our lives. Anyone who’s ever been in pain will experience their effects. Sprain an ankle or get a knot in your shoulder and you’ll know all about them.

Prostaglandins are also central to the role played by anti-inflammatories like Voltaren. NSAIDS or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( a class which also includes Ibuprofen and Aspirin) work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins. When tissue is injured, prostaglandins not only cause it to swell, they also amplify the electrical signal sent out by the nerves. So they increase the level of pain you feel.

Anti-inflammatories block the effect of Cox-1 and Cox-2 inhibitors, special enzymes which go into making prostaglandins. Fewer enzymes, fewer prostaglandins, less pain.

As with anything in a complex system like the human body, prostaglandins have more than one role. One type of prostaglandin also protects the lining of the stomach, which is why it’s recommended that you take NSAIDs with food. Certain newer NSAIDs were designed to avoid this, but it was found that they increased the risk of heart attacks, so were taken off the market after a huge scandal in the early 2000s.

The ingredient in Voltaren is Diclofenac, which  was first developed in 1973 and is commonly used to treat musculoskeletal pain, migraines and period pains. By way of comparison, Ibuprofen was developed in the 1960s, while Aspirin has been around since 1897.

I’ve used all three for years, and I’ve only got around to learning about how they actually physically work in the body now – and finally understood why it’s so important to take any NSAID with food (because not all prostaglandins are bad prostaglandins).

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Exercises for handbag carrying

It turns out that there are exercises you can do to strengthen yourself in order to carry a heavy handbag – or “purse” as the Americans insist on calling it. Here’s Dr Laura Schlessinger, who is otherwise best known as a conservative radio talkshow host and user of words she shouldn’t.

It’s kind of creepy, but possibly useful.

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Sam Cowen’s pain in the neck

This is the illustration we sent together with a Voltaren-branded ball to Highveld’s Sam Cowen:

Sam Cowen

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Have you tried a standing desk?

If she wants to get rid of back pain, she should also ditch the shoes.

Recently, a lot has been written about standing desks. They’re the hottest thing in office furniture since somebody thought to put wheels on a chair. Mashable first drew attention to their benefits back in 2011, citing a Men’s Health article in which a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise which looked at the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over 13 years, and found that those who sit for most of the day were 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.

This is what I want: a treadmill desk.

Since then, Mashable has installed a couple of treadmill desks, which certainly appeal to my love of multitasking. (A caveat though: I kickstarted my back pain problems by studying for my Std 9 exams while riding an exercise bike, so killing two birds with one stone isn’t always wise.)

Quirk Johannesburg has been experimenting with improvised standing desks, inspiring me to try typing standing up. I use the kitchen counter, or the nearest cardboard box on top of a normal desk, which isn’t necessarily that practical – in the longer term, I’d be keen to try something more permanent.

Standing desks seem to be hard to come by in South Africa, based on my cursory search. (If there are any manufacturers in this country, give me a shout.) Here are 6 different options to build a DIY standing desk, complete with handy diagram:

Standing desk diagram

Photo: I am not a Programmer, via bobvila.comDo you use a standing desk? How have you found the experience? Tweet me a pic @Anatinus and I’ll post it to inspire else who, like me, is trying to sit less.

If your heart is set on a treadmill desk – no pun intended, though it probably should be – you can find advice on how to build one here.

Do you use a standing desk? How have you found the experience? Tweet me a pic @Anatinus and I’ll post it to inspire else who, like me, is trying to sit less.

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Aki’s aches and pains

Aki Anastasiou was the only guy to get a Voltaren ball this time (the focus was on handbags, shoes and kids). The tech in our lives is a leading cause of back pain – we spend so much time sitting or slouching or scrolling that repetitive strain injuries are inevitable. As with everyone, I needed some guesswork for the diagram in the letter that accompanied the ball, but giving Aki’s history of telling us about the traffic and the latest gadgets, I thought I stood a reasonable chance of being on the mark with this: Image 

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Are subtweets a pain in Anele’s neck?

As part of this campaign, Voltaren sent a delivery to various influencers. Every person who got a Voltaren ball got a personalized letter explaining why they were getting the ball (to help with back pain) as well as a diagram of all the causes of their aches and pains. This is the diagram I drew up for Anele, who spends a lot of time on Twitter. It involved a bit of guesswork – did I get it right?

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New terror stalks the office workers of the land!

Attack of the bum

This is the scariest thing I’ve read in a while. It’s enough to make you run screaming every time you see a chair. It turns out that sitting doesn’t just cause back, neck and shoulder pain. It doesn’t just increase your chances of dying.

It makes your bum bigger.

Now, I know that J-Lo and Kim Kardashian have inspired a whole new industry which involves inserting silicone implants in the rear ends of people with bums like ironing boards, but I have no such problem.

As it turns out that it would help if I sat less. Sitting really does make your bum bigger. This article (by the unfortunately named, in the context, Alice Smellie) lists the various ways in which sitting causes something known as Desk Derriere (also known as Business Bum or Office Arse. The latter is a little too ambiguous; I’ve known lots of office arses.)

Apparently, the hip flexor muscles at the front of the hip, become overactive and tight if you sit all day.  As a result, the muscles that give your bum its shape become less responsive and more underactive, leading to poor muscle tone and a hideous expanse of flabby flesh.

Something called Lower Crossed Syndrome can also develop as a result of too much sitting. This is a chronic muscle imbalance which causes lower back, knee and ankle pain.

Researchers at the University of Tel Aviv found that if they were sat on, preadipocyte cells – essentially fat cells in training – then developed into fat cells and accumulated fat twice as quickly as normal fat cells. If you sit for a long time, you’re more likely to store fat in your bum.

Fat cell in training

Fat cell in training

All the more reason to use the stairs, stand around the microwave and go and talk to people instead of sending an email.

As for me, I work from home – so I need to bounce on my Voltaren ball. And invest in a standing desk, stat.

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