New Targeted Topical Relief for Pain

June 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Health

Ask any doctor who are the most frequent visitors to their surgery and fairly high up the list are people with pain from bad backs, arthritis and muscular aches and pains. Dr Chris Steele, from ITV’s This Morning programme, recently said that although most GPs routinely prescribe painkillers and anti-inflammatories (NSAID’S, usually in pill form but they often don’t solve the problem without some side effects. Nor are side effects the only problem, there is also the risk – when codeine is prescribed for long-term pain – of addiction to the painkillers themselves.

What many doctors are not prescribing however is a more effective, faster, route to pain relief without side-effects but which is happily now available over the counter.

There are literally millions of people in the UK who regularly suffer pain triggered by work, lifestyle or injury and for most of us our response is to turn to the medicine cabinet and swallow a couple of painkillers. Now there is another solution: new research by the makers of Deep Relief – an innovative dual action, topical pain relief gel – has shown in clinical trials that their topically applied gel targets the pain and brings faster relief more effectively than painkillers do.

It does this through a unique combination of two active ingredients – ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), and levomenthol. Ibuprofen reduces inflammation, the main source of pain, while levomenthol produces a cooling and counter-irritant effect to help minimise pain signals. In addition, ibuprofen is quickly absorbed through the skin thanks to its synergistic effect with levomenthol.

They also ran tests against the other leading pain gel medications and Deep Relief gel was found to be absorbed faster and more effectively so that it gave relief longer than two other topical pain relief gels (Ibuleve Speed Relief Gel and Ibuprofen Gel).
Commenting on these latest research results, Colin Brown, Director of Research and Quality Development at Mentholatum, makers of Deep Relief, said: “The laboratory data suggests that that the presence of levomenthol in the Deep Relief gel results in more of the ibuprofen being delivered quicker up to four hours after application compared to the other formulations tested. Such findings suggest an obvious synergistic effect between levomenthol and ibuprofen, helping delivery of the ibuprofen.

These latest findings follow earlier research, which showed how Deep Relief gel can significantly reduce pain. In a placebo controlled trial at St George’s Hospital and Medical School, London, 225 patients aged 16 to 60 with sprained ankles were given Deep Relief, a menthol only formulation or a placebo. The patient group using Deep Relief gel showed significant improvement in pain reduction when walking, standing and at rest, with lesser effects seen in the menthol-only group. As a result, this research and the latest laboratory research we have just commissioned, continues to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Deep Relief dual formulation of ibuprofen and levomenthol.

Chronic and persistent pain can be extremely debilitating, leading to depression in around 16% of people who have it. Long-term use of painkillers certainly carries other risks too: liver and stomach damage, ulcers, addiction, headaches plus less serious side effects such as nausea, dizziness, constipation and vomiting.

The benefit of a topical gel is that you can apply it directly to the site of the pain and it is of course an easy and convenient form of pain relief that you can carry with you. Deep Relief is indicated for the relief of rheumatic pain, muscular aches and pains and swellings and for adults and children over 12 years. Available in pharmacies and the recommended price for a 50 g tube is £5.10.

How ‘Just Looking’ Can Start to Reduce Pain

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Health

It’s a phrase you hear more often in shops than in the medical community, but it seems that simply looking at your body reduces pain, according to new research by scientists from University College London and the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy.

So how does that work? According to the study just published in the journal ‘Psychological Science’, the research shows that viewing your hand reduces the pain experienced when a hot object touches the skin. Furthermore, the level of pain depends on how large the hand looked — the larger the hand the greater the effect of pain reduction.

Flavia Mancini, the first author of the study, said “The image that the brain forms of our own body has a strong effect on the experienced level of pain. Moreover, the way the body is represented influences the level of pain experienced.”

During the experiment, 18 participants had a heat probe placed on their left hand. The probe temperature was gradually increased, and participants stopped the heat by pressing a foot pedal as soon as they began to feel pain. The scientists used a set of mirrors to manipulate what the participants saw during the experiment. Participants always looked towards their left hand, but they either saw their own hand, or a wooden object appearing at the hand’s location.

The team found that simply viewing the hand reduced pain levels: the pain threshold was about 3°C higher when looking at the hand, compared to when looking at another object.

Next, the team used concave and convex mirrors to show the hand as either enlarged or reduced in size. When the hand was seen as enlarged, participants tolerated even greater levels of heat from the probe before reporting pain. When the hand was seen as smaller than its true size, participants reported pain at lower temperatures than when viewing the hand at its normal size.

This suggests that the experience of pain arises in parts of the brain that represent the size of the body. The scientists’ ‘visual trick’ may have influenced the brain’s spatial maps of the skin. The results suggest that the processing of pain is closely linked to these brain maps of the skin.

Professor Patrick Haggard of University College said: “Many psychological therapies for pain focus on the painful stimulus, for example by changing expectations, or by teaching distraction techniques. However, thinking beyond the stimulus that causes pain, to the body itself, may have novel therapeutic implications. For example, when a child goes to the doctor for a blood test, we tell them it will hurt less if they don’t look at the needle. Our results suggest that they should look at their arm, but they should try to avoid seeing the needle, if that is possible!”

I would go further and suggest that, although it may not be scientific, there is much anecdotal evidence on how we can influence our experience of pain or discomfort by focusing our mind on something else. For instance if I am somewhere that is very cold and I can do nothing to increase the temperature I will usually do a brief visualisation and see myself somewhere warm and comfortable and my sense of coldness decreases.

Spiritual practitioners have used these visualisation techniques for centuries and you could try it for yourself with something minor like itching – which can drive you mad – I find that imagining the source of the itch being soothed with a cool application of calamine means I do ‘feel’ the itching reduce.

Doesn’t work for everyone but let me know if you try it and what your experience is.

Acupuncture Proven Helpful for Pain Relief and Lazy Eye in Children

January 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Childrens Health, Health

I have always been a great fan of acupuncture as it started me on my career as a health writer by treating a trapped sciatic nerve that completely immobilized me and without the 200 painkiller prescription the doctor had offered. Acupuncture has previously been found to help improve fertility, increase heart function, and assist in helping people sleep, and I know not everyone is fond of needles, but evidence also continues to mount as to its effectiveness at reducing and eliminating pain.

New findings from the University Hospital in Essen, Germany were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). They included functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that clearly show a positive change in the metabolic activity of patients’ brains receiving acupuncture treatment.

This is a small scale study of only 18 volunteers and lead researcher Nina Theysohn, MD, from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology explained why it is important. “Functional MRI gives us the opportunity to directly observe areas of the brain that are activated during pain perception and see the variances that occur with acupuncture. Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture.”

Acupuncture for pain relief has been used for centuries in China, where it originated, and is also available as an option in the Birthing Unit at my local hospital instead of epidural drugs.
The findings challenge a commonly held belief that acupuncture works primarily as a placebo and while certain brain responses to acupuncture indicate facets of a placebo response, others clearly highlight specific mechanical activities in the brain that demonstrably reduce pain symptoms.

Acupuncture and Children With Lazy Eye:
It seems that it could also potentially become an alternative to patching for treating amblyopia (lazy eye) in some older children, which can affect up to 5 percent of individuals worldwide . The report by Jianhao Zhao, M.D., of Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University appeared in a recent issue of Archives of Ophthalmology and said that although this problem can be corrected easily with glasses or contact lenses it only appears to be effective in children age 3 to 7 years. Over that age, and up to 12, only 30 percent respond to visual correction alone and the usual solution is to also patch over one eye and this does increase this response rate to two-thirds.

However, there are problems with patching as children do not like it, often removing the patch when out of parental supervision and those that do follow the regime can experience emotional problems through teasing or feeling different and vulnerable.

Acupuncture has previously been used to treat dry eye and myopia and so a controlled trial involving 88 children was set up where 43 were randomly assigned to the acupuncture group and received five treatments per week targeting five acupoints, or needle insertion sites. The remaining 45 children had their good eye patched for two hours a day and were instructed to do at least one hour of near-vision activities with the lazy eye, such as reading or typing.

After 15 weeks there was a 75.6 percent improvement in vision of those in the acupuncture group and lazy eye was considered resolved in 16.7 percent of patched eyes and 41.5 percent of eyes in the acupuncture group. Both treatments were well tolerated; children had no problems complying with either therapy, and no serious adverse effects were found in either group.

Acupuncture is believed to be effective because by targeting vision-related acupoints it may change the activity of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives data from the eyes. It may also increase blood flow to the eye and surrounding structures as well as stimulate the generation of compounds that support the growth of retinal nerves.

Whatever you want to use acupuncture for, it is essential to only use a qualified practitioner and I recommend you ask if they have treated your condition before, how often, and what the success rate is. To find a qualified acupuncturist in your area ask at your local health stores and natural health clinics for recommendations or visit

Pain Reduced by Meditation

June 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Health


I am a great advocate of meditation for many things: stress management, pain relief from arthritis, relaxation and general sense of increased peace and happiness. Now it seems that people who meditate regularly find pain less unpleasant because their brains anticipate the pain less – no one so far has yet done a study on meditation relating to childbirth pain, but I would be interested to hear from any readers experience of it. Currently In the UK 40% of people who suffer from chronic pain report inadequate management of their pain problem so any relief is welcomed.

You do need to keep practicing to get this pain relief benefit though as scientists from the University of Manchester found that only the more advanced meditators had a different anticipation and experience of pain when compared to non-meditators.

It didn’t seem to matter what kind of meditation as long it included ‘mindfulness meditation’ practices, such as those that form the basis of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), recommended for recurrent depression by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in 2004.

Dr Christopher Brown, who conducted the research, said that “meditation is becoming increasingly popular as a way to treat chronic illness such as the pain caused by arthritis and recently, a mental health charity called for meditation to be routinely available on the NHS to treat depression, which occurs in up to 50% of people with chronic pain. However, scientists have only just started to look into how meditation might reduce the emotional impact of pain.”

The study found that particular areas of the brain were less active as meditators anticipated pain and that people who meditate also showed unusual activity during anticipation of pain in part of the prefrontal cortex. This is the region of the brain known to be involved in controlling attention and thought processes when potential threats are perceived. . Meditation trains the brain to be more present-focused and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events. This may be why meditation is effective at reducing the recurrence of depression, which makes chronic pain considerably worse.

Study co-author Professor Anthony Jones said: “One might argue that if a therapy works, then why should we care how it works? But it may be surprising to learn that the mechanisms of action of many current therapies are largely unknown, a fact that hinders the development of new treatments. Understanding how meditation works would help improve this method of treatment and help in the development of new therapies.

If I was feeling cynical I might say that scientists have always been distinctly wary of anything ‘emotional’ that can’t be proved, so I do celebrate this as a giant step forward. If you want to conduct your own ‘research’ there are many classes available on meditation and plenty of self-help CD’s if you can’t get to a class. If you want to have a look at the meditation CD I produced to help you relax and reduce stress then please visit this link and scroll down the page

Get rid of gout pain

Unfortunately it is seen as a bit of a joke, an old man’s disease caused by too much port, but gout is far from funny. It is in fact a form of arthritis, and the pain in the infected joints can be severe and is caused when the body produces or retains too much uric acid. The acid forms sharp crystals in soft connective tissue around the joints with the big toe being a primary focus. Gout does not appear overnight, it is the result of years of more uric acid being produced than you expel on a daily basis.

Why would you produce excess uric acid? It can be caused by obesity, high intake of diuretic drugs, excessive alcohol consumption, and hereditary factors. Certain foods are recognised as being triggers for an attack of gout so the first step is to eliminate as many as you can.

Common triggers include:

  • High protein and diuretic foods such as organ meats
  • Asparagus and broccoli
  • Coffee, orange juice
  • soft drinks**

**Those soft drinks are a new addition to the list of potential triggers. A study done over the past 12 years by researchers at the University of British Columbia has shown that a frequent intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks was significantly linked to gout risk. If you know someone who drinks just one soft drink a day they are increasing their gout risk by 45%, and two or more a day leaps to 85%. ‘Healthy’ drinks like apple and orange juice are not immune either as they have high levels of fructose. Bizarrely, diet drinks which contain sweeteners do not carry a risk of gout – but they do pose other health problems.

Natural help is available for gout, and the first step would be to cut out all soft drinks and substitute with plain water to help eliminate the uric acid crystals. The next best thing is to eat cherries and drink their juice. Cherries help prompt uric acid excretion and many people have found that adding them to their diet helps relieve the sharp pain associated with gout.

Two other nature’s helpers are celery seed extract and extract of juniper and some sufferers have kept themselves attack free by also taking up yoga. So no need to prop your foot up on a cushion and wait for the pain to go away, have a large bag of cherries and a bottle of still water and you could soon be hopping about again.

Medical speak and massage for post-op pain relief

December 24, 2007 by  
Filed under Health, Wellness

Sometimes the blindingly obvious seems to pass mainstream medicine by. A recent research project in the USA got funding to run a trial that established that massage can reduce the amount of painkillers patients need after having an operation. Based, I believe, on the well tried and tested old folk remedy of mum rubbing it better after you had fallen off your bike, it is automatic and natural to us to rub where we are hurt. It helps blood flow to the area for faster healing and the therapeutic effect of touch from another human being in a kind and compassionate way will relieve stress so it would seem obvious that massage could be helpful. Indeed several hospitals in the UK employ massage with lavender oil for patients as a means of cutting down on sleeping pill prescriptions and it does appear to be very effective.

The researchers found, as any of us could have told them at a fraction of the cost, that “Pain can affect physical functioning, including the ability to cough and breathe deeply, move, sleep, and perform self-care activities. This may contribute to unintended and serious postoperative complications. Furthermore, ineffective pain relief may result in significant psychological distress.” Being in pain is certainly distressing so along with the bottle of lucozade and bunch of grapes you might want to treat the patient to an in-hospital visit from a qualified masseur – check with the hospital first though to get permission. The study authors concluded, in a wonderful example of how to make a simple statement almost impenetrable, that “massage may potentially be a safer alternative as-needed form of pain relief. With proper training, health care providers at the bedside (especially nurses) may now have a powerful non-pharmacologic tool to directly address their patients’ pain and anxiety.”

In other words massage works, and it’s non addictive.

Pain relief on a plate

Usually, if you are in pain you reach for a pill. However, depending on the severity of your discomfort there are some foods that you might like to try. If you prefer a natural solution, you may want to visit your health store for white willow bark. In 1827, a French chemist named Leroux extracted a substance from the bark of a white willow tree that he named “Salicin.” This substance is the main active ingredient of white willow, and it works as a pain reliever. Many years later two other – Felix Hofman and Fredrick Bayer – found a related compound to salicin, and later developed a synthetic version of that compound. This led to the development of the commercial product known as aspirin. White willow doesn’t have the side effects of aspirin because it is naturally converted in the body to salicylic acid, which is mild and does not upset the stomach. You can use it wherever you would normally use aspirin: pain relief, to reduce fevers, and as an anti-inflammatory where it is particularly useful for arthritis and rheumatism. It is available as tablets or capsules, though the capsule form has a faster action.

However, if aspirin is your drug of choice for pain relief, then its effects will be accelerated if you drink a cup of strong coffee at the same time, according to research conducted by Dr Bernard Schachel of Yale University. If you are a cook, then there are a range of options available to you: eating chilli peppers can help reduce pain because they are an excellent source of caspsaicin, a substance found by researchers at the University of Alabama to diminish many kinds of pain, especially chronic pains, including those associated with pinched nerves, as in sciatica. Many everyday foods also have a high content of salicylates, like white willow bark, and they too have both analgesic effects and can also combat inflammation. Good sources of foods that are proven to have pain-reducing properties include: garlic, ginger, onions, cherries, prunes, blueberries, curry powder, dried currants and dates, paprika, liquorice, and peppermint.