Supporting the Joints and Muscles

Pain Relief: Naturally

Dear HG,

Pain relief is one of the major issues in pharmacy today and we are finding some new products can really help. In your case, arthritis pain is one issue; your back pain may not be the result of the same problem. In any event, there are some things you can do from a natural perspective to help. I would caution you first though; pain can be the result of some type of underlying condition, so make sure you have sought out the services of a qualified physician. Don't let pain go for long without knowing why it is there.

Kinks in our structure may be the result of our inherited frame. Our jobs may also be the cause of structural kinks and back pain. Improper lifting, lack of exercise, and lack of minerals may all be reasons why your back hurts. I always suggest to people with chronic back pain to consult with their physician and other healthcare practitioners about the methods of recovering from structural problems.

While the current conventional methods of pain relief (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) may create problems with the stomach and digestive system, there are some new drugs that can be very effective. Many of these drugs have been derived from natural sources and should also be considered.

Kitchen Remedies and Herbs

There are many herbs that have been used historically to ease pain. Some of them are in your kitchen cabinet. Many others are available in teas, tinctures, and in standardized capsules and tablets, which I prefer because you can more accurately gauge the quantities needed to ease the pain.

There are a variety of plants from the Willow family that contain salicylates, the same substance from which aspirin is made. Many of these plants contain methyl-salicylate, which has a pleasant smell and effective pain fighting ability. Birch bark and wintergreen are two examples. Both were used by Native Americans for back pain. If you don't feel like drinking teas made from tree bark, consider using Oil of Wintergreen, an essential oil often used in aromatherapy massage.

Peppermints and other members of the mint family can also be effective. Many drug store remedies contain camphor and menthol, both of which are derived from the family of plants. Look also for oils that can help relax the muscle, such as rosemary, horsebalm and thyme. These oils can be applied with creams and other oils to keep them from irritating the skin.

Another kitchen remedy is cayenne. The pepper that heats up our foods also heats up our kinks and help to ease pain. Cayenne contains a chemical known as capsaicin, which can over time be a very effective pain reliever. I recommended this product for several years, but more recently have suggested a product known as Penetran, which takes the concept of natural pain relief and adds in pharmacy technology for a great result.

Penetran assists your body in it's natural pain relief process by simply neutralizing the pain signals that are generated from the area of injury, giving you some much needed relief. And it does this without interfering with your body's efforts to heal itself.

Penetran doesn't just "distract your pain" with heat or cold like remedies containing methylsalicylate, menthol or capsaicin. Unlike these other rubs that work at the skin surface, Penetran penetrates deeply and works at the origin of your pain. It actually neutralizes the pain signals produced below the skin surface. And it works very fast -- usually within 5 to 20 minutes. Contrast this to rubs that contain capsaicin. They can take up to 2 weeks of continued, uninterrupted use before maximum pain relief is achieved.

Penetran is non-irritating and quite soothing when applied. It produces no heat and is actually very cooling. Since there are no harsh chemical ingredients, Penetran can be used on both broken and bruised skin without discomfort.

The ingredients in Penetran don't know the difference between arthritis pain, muscle pain or any other type of pain you feel in your muscles or joints. It works extremely well for all sorts of painful conditions. I even know of 2 patients that recently experienced dramatic relief of pain when they applied Penetran to their shingles.

If you play sports, keep a tube in your gym bag. It works wonders on sports related pain. It's also good for bursitis, minor insect bites, burns, abrasions and bruises.

Arthritic Pain Relief:
Using Science and Cultural Medicine from Around the Globe

We have learned a great deal about arthritis over the past few years. There are two types of this dreaded disease, Rheumatoid and Osteo-Arthritis. But there is only one kind of reaction to the symptom of these disorders - PAIN!!! Joint pain is quite debilitating because it occurs in the areas we really need for our mobility. Special diets and attention to eliminating potential pain triggers is important and I am happy to offer these diet tips, if you contact me at the pharmacy. We also carry a number of excellent natural products that will not only help relieve the pain, they may actually help to reduce or eliminate the arthritis altogether. These products combine the most recent science of nutritional biochemistry, coupled by the use of pain-relieving herbs from several cultural medicine systems.

Many published studies suggest that a substance known as glucosamine sulfate can provide great pain relief in the joints and helps to support the body by strengthening tissue that support our joints. The pain in the back may be tied to this type of tissue, known as cartilage. The back pain may also be the result of a misalignment, which may require the services of a chiropractor to fix. Pain in the back may also be tied to muscles.

Glucosamine is a natural substance that plays an important role in the resiliency of cartilage, the soft tissue that cushions the bones in your joints. It is found abundantly in the human body. However, as we age, we lose some of the glucosamine and other substances in our cartilage. In some, this leads to the thinning of the cushioning cartilage and possibly to osteoarthritis. Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which is another component of cartilage, taken orally can help slow the breakdown of your cartilage and may even assist the body in the maintenance and rebuilding of existing tissue.

Vitamin C is another nutritional component that is important to joint pain sufferers. This nutrient is an integral component of collagen and aids in joint tissue repair.

Several herbs that are used to help ease pain come from the Ayurvedic System of Medicine. These are Tumeric, which contains the important ingredient known as curcumin, and Boswellian, a natural gum extract from a tree grown in India and used in the Ayurvedic system as a powerful anti-inflammatory.

These herbs have a remarkable ability to reduce inflammation associated with arthritic states. Finally, an enzyme known as Bromelain, which is derived from Pineapple, is especially helpful in reducing inflammation.

While there are many types of pain relief out there, I have found that quality formulas that contain varying amounts of the ingredients I mentioned provide a wonderful break from the pain derived from the joints. Click here to see our available formulas.

HG, I wish you good luck with your quest to end your pain relief. Should you require further assistance or counsel, please don't hesitate to contact me for a consultation about your diet, exercise and supplemental help to relieve pain.

Questions about Health?
Ask "Mike"
For Consultation with Jerry "Michael" Casso R.Ph.
Phone: (504) 888-3077


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Muscle Aches

Dear Mike,

I have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. I also have other muscle aches that bother me. Do you have any tips to help me, naturally?

KD, New Orleans

Dear KD,

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) - also known as the "working person's pain." This malady is quite upsetting to those it strikes because they require the use of the affected areas in their job and everyday life. CTS is considered medically as a compression of the nerve in the median of the wrist that sometimes produces numbness, tingling, and pain. Weakness and tingling of the first three fingers and thumb may also occur.

The symptoms of carpal tunnel include tingling of hands and fingers, often at night or during work that requires use of the area. This tingling can become pain or soreness. It can also expand to a tingling in the entire arm, neck, hip, and/or thigh.

CTS is most common in women past the age of thirty-five. I have seen it in people from all walks of life, including meat cutters, hair and nail stylists, people spending many hours at the computer, and ironically, pharmacists.

It is said that constant motion and the repetition of the wrist can bring about CTS. There sometimes is swelling of the wrists and fingers, and once pain sets in, it can be debilitating to the point that people can no longer perform the actions. That can mean disability. CTS is also found during pregnancy, with low thyroid, vitamin B6 deficiencies, nerve disorders, and improper spinal and neck alignment.

The treatment varies and symptoms may improve in a few days, or take months. Often, CTS can be treated without surgery, but it is sometimes necessary.

There are several treatment plans from the nutritional and natural medicine world. From a nutritional standpoint, the first place to look is vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamin B6.

Many CTS sufferers find relief by maintaining a diet of whole foods, with a limited protein intake. Good foods to consider include whole grains, seeds, and nuts.

Soybeans, fresh salmon, and cod are deemed good protein sources, as are liver, beans, and brown rice. Avoid foods that contain yellow dyes or deplete the body's stores of B6, including sugar, caffeine, and corn. Processed grains are not great, either.

People with CTS often have a deficiency in B vitamins, and a supplement of these, containing a good store of B6 is recommended. Treatment with B6 may allow the body to heal without the need for surgery. I suggest a daily intake of 25-100 mgs. I will warn you not to take B6 in high doses for extended periods of time, as it can turn from help to hurt. Most cases of toxicity with the vitamin occur in doses of 3-5 grams daily, although I have seen cases where the dosing was as low as 300 mgs. daily.

Certain medications can also create a deficiency of vitamin B6, including some oral contraceptives and MAO inhibiting anti-depressants. Be patient with the use of vitamin B6 as it may take a few months to ease the symptoms of CTS.

I also suggest magnesium supplements, which may help to strengthen the muscle and nerves around the wrist. Magnesium plays a role in this process, and can help greatly with muscle cramping, another symptom of the disorder.

Some herbs that may be helpful include White willow bark, Meadowsweet, or any supplement containing natural anti-inflammatory action, such as Quercetin or Bromelain. Aromatherapists use marjoram, lavender, and eucalyptus for aiding in pain relief and nerve tingling.

I would also suggest hydrotherapy. Water is a great healer and people that have suffered from carpal tunnel find great relief by soaking the wrists and arms in water. Try an "arm bath" with the essential oils of lavender and marjoram several times daily.

There are many disorders that appear to be the result of vitamin deficiencies. It is more important now than ever to eat properly, getting ample benefit from whole foods. It is also important to supplement the diet.

Aches in the Muscles

We all get aches, right? Sometimes we also get spasms and cramps in the muscles, which are really more a bother than long-term issues; but hey, aches are also a sign of problems. After all, when the body is working properly, we are now supposed to have these issues. Yet, as we age, it seems we do get more aches.

Some of our common maladies, such as tendonitis, restless legs syndrome and just plain old "I used my muscles again and they hurt" pain can all be considered worth alleviating. And the best place to start is with your diet and supplement program.

Pain comes as a result of prostagladins. You can help yourself to balance this call to inflammation by supplementing with Essential Fatty Acids. These will help the body truly balance the natural pain relief the body provides with the appropriate response.

Most of the nutritional support considerations for muscles can be covered by a good multivitamin, a good nighttime mineral product with added Magnesium and the addition of another important nutrient, CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This nutrient plays a role in energy production within each cell of the body. Studies have shown that people with muscle pain, either brought on by medications or irratice exercise programs, will see a reduction in pain relief with the supplementation of COQ10. It is also a great support for the heart. Click here for the best CoQ10 product science has yet created.

With stressful work, and constant assaults from our environment, our best insurance against problems that result from vitamin and mineral deficiencies is to supplement your diet with a good multivitamin, B vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Magnesium is particularly important for the muscles and it can be found through numerous foods and/or supplements. Yet, not all supplements were created equal, so it would be wise to learn more about your muscle strength and nutrients to help. For more information about carpal tunnel and assorted muscle aches, contact me or stop by the Wellness Store. We are always happy to help you stay…well!

Mike Casso, R.Ph.