To Your Health
January, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 01)
Possible side effects of both capsaicin and menthol include a burning sensation that will decrease over time, as well as a minimal risk of contact dermatitis. These products should not be used over open wounds or mucous membranes.
It's important not to combine these topical analgesics with external heat sources, such as heating pads, because of the change in heat sensitivity after application. Individuals might not sense that a heating pad is getting too hot and could inadvertently burn the skin.
Topical analgesics can be an effective, natural pain reliever with minimal side effects. Recent scientific discoveries provide even more support for the beneficial effects of topical analgesics in assisting with the treatment of chronic musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, headaches and peripheral neuropathy.
Talk to your doctor of chiropractic if you are experiencing local, chronic or any of the previously mentioned types of pain, including headaches. Your doctor can recommend and provide a topical analgesic to support the care you currently are receiving. Additionally, many patients find that with topical analgesics added to their in-office or home care, they are able to achieve quicker recovery from acute injuries and less recurrences with chronic conditions.
Grabbing for a glass of ice water after too much Tabasco won't reduce the burning at all. CAPSAICIN, which puts the hot in hot sauce, is a nonpolar molecule and is therefore hydrophobic. Thus, by the same principle that causes oil and water to separate, the nonpolar capsaicin is unable to dissolve in the polar water molecules. Instead, water only spreads the burning across the surface of the mouth.
On the other hand, consuming foods high in fats and oils, such as milk or bread and butter, will help alleviate the burning. The capsaicin is able to mix freely with the fats in the food and is removed from the surface of the mouth. Alcohol and alcoholic beverages also dissolve capsaicin, due to the solvent characteristics of ethanol. And, of course, if you can stand the heat, the capsaicin will dissipate on its own - eventually.
MENTHOL is available as a dietary supplement or natural medicine in the form of peppermint oil. It is used in Eastern medicine to treat indigestion, nausea, sore throat, diarrhoea, colds and headaches. A carefully crafted, natural product that originates from peppermint essential oil extraction, menthol crystals come from freezing the base concentrate oil from a common mint, Mentha arvensis. From there, the crystals are blended into natural products.
Menthol has been used in Japan for more than 2,000 years, but in the West, it was not isolated until 1771 by Gambius. It has been used as an antipruritic, which reduces itching; and for relief of muscle aches and sprains.
Phillip Page, MS, PT, ATC, CSCS, is a physical therapist, athletic trainer, and certified strength and conditioning specialist. He operates a private practice in Baton Rouge, La., specializing in sports and orthopedic physical therapy, and has worked with the National Football League's New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks.
Dana Mackison, DC, CCSP, graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, Mo., and practiced in Carrollton, Texas, for 24 years, operating a family-oriented, community based practice with an emphasis on sports, nutrition and follow-up rehabilitation.