What are anti-inflammatories?
Anti-inflammatories refer to a slate of drugs, treatments and supplements that are used to combat inflammation in the body, provide pain relief, and control the body's response to irritation or injury. Inflammation begins when hormones in the body force white blood cells into action to tackle infections or repair damaged tissue, which will result in familiar warning signs like heat, pain, redness, and swelling. These are all normal facets of the healing process in the body, but can cause significant discomfort as the body returns to normal.
Anti-inflammatories drugs and treatments come in a variety of forms and are designed to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. These include:
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs make up about half of all over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers sold on the market today, including common products like Ibuprofen, Naproxen and Aspirin. To control pain, these drugs control the body's production of the COX enzyme, which synthesizes prostaglandins which results in inflammation in the body. This effectively reduces inflammation and the associated pain from the condition, and even prescription NSAIDs follow the same mode of action to alleviate pain and inflammation.
Cold packs are one of the most reliable means of controlling inflammation relating to immediate injuries and chronic pain from muscles and joints. Colder temperatures effectively slow down blood flow in the affected area, which reduces inflammation and pain as well as promoting the healing process. In combination with rest, elevation and compression, ice therapy is an extremely effective therapy to combat inflammation.
In addition to medically-based treatments for inflammation, there are a wealth of herbal supplements and foods that, while not conclusively proven, may have anti-inflammatory qualities. These supplements include ginger, turmeric, devil's claw, willow's bark and more. Specific foods are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, including omega-3 fatty acid rich fish, dark leafy greens, nuts, soy, tomatoes and garlic contain immunity-boosting substances that can fight inflammation.
Why do anti-inflammatories require a prescription for reimbursement?
As a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), as of January 1, 2011, a new set of uniform standards were put into place regarding the reimbursement of medical expenses. To reimburse the cost of OTC medicines and drugs under FSAs, HSAs and other consumer spending accounts, account holders must submit a prescription from a physician for each product.
OTC anti-inflammatory medications like Aleve, Advil and more now require a prescription from a doctor to be purchased through an FSA, HSA or HRA. However, some OTC products like cold packs do not require a prescription. For more information on a specific product, please consult our comprehensive Eligibility List.