Hot Pepper Science: Capsaicin and Pain Relief

capsaicinDuring the last month I’ve been on the hunt for good pain relief with this hand issue (see my last post if you’re just tuning in). After a very frustrating few weeks going back and forth between ibuprofen and naproxen sodium (Aleve, in brand name) I started to get really frustrated. The only part of me that hurt were my hands, and these medications weren’t really doing much to help. Why take a pill that doesn’t work and targets everything?

While perusing the local pain relief at the store about a week ago I came across a product I’d been interested in for a while: Capzasin, a topical analgesic derived from capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot. I’d read a lot about this chemical and its purported medical applications, but was a little leery about shelling out $10 for a small tube of anything. However, since I’d tried just about everything, I was willing to risk it, especially in the name of science. I mean, I’m a geek. The idea of hot peppers actually helping alleviate pain sort of feels like something out of a fantasy novel, or a poultice an alchemist might make in a D&D game. I’m totally about that.

Well, to my surprise (and relief) the product really worked. It hasn’t gotten rid of the pain entirely, but it certainly mitigates the real “high end” of carpal tunnel pain, making going about my daily activities a whole lot easier. It also has a warming sensation that’s very welcome. The only weird side-effect is that if I apply it too late in the evening, after I put my braces on my wrists at night, I can end up with a burning sensation (mine is very minor, but in some instances people with sensitive skin experience much more severe burning—definitely something to start small with if you suspect you might be prone to its effects). This is somewhat expected, as the label doesn’t recommend wrapping the area, but I have to keep my wrists straight at night. It’s tolerable and only happens sometimes. Also, it can linger on the fingers. So if you’re applying it with bare hands, it’s probably a good idea to skip the contact lenses for a while. I learned that one the hard way. Serious ouch.

According to Wikipedia, there are a myriad of medical applications for capsaicin and chili peppers in general, and currently it’s being tested for everything from weight loss to cardiovascular diseases. Whether or not it’s a wonder drug is still up for debate, but it’s definitely exciting and geeky. Looks like pain relief is just one of the many ways chili peppers can make our lives better… not to mention being a culinary goldmine!

Advertisement





8 Responses to Hot Pepper Science: Capsaicin and Pain Relief

  1. In my case, I had wrist pains on my right hand and it turned out to be from the mouse I was using.

    A while ago I switched to a vertical mouse from Evoluent. I didn’t really think it will work but it did. The mouse has a weird shape and it can be a little awkward to hold at first but you get used to it very quick.

    Now, whenever I have to use another computer/mouse, I can feel the discomfort returning and if I use it for a longer period of time, even pain.

  2. In my case, I had wrist pains on my right hand and it turned out to be from the mouse I was using.

    A while ago I switched to a vertical mouse from Evoluent. I didn't really think it will work but it did. The mouse has a weird shape and it can be a little awkward to hold at first but you get used to it very quick.

    Now, whenever I have to use another computer/mouse, I can feel the discomfort returning and if I use it for a longer period of time, even pain.

  3. I wouldn’t recommend wrapping either. Nor applying anywhere in a “crease” like your elbow, armpit, back of the knee, inside thigh, etc. When the treated area lies against another, the heat factor gets magnified.

    And I would definitely wear gloves to apply AND wash your hands before going near your eyes.

  4. I wouldn't recommend wrapping either. Nor applying anywhere in a "crease" like your elbow, armpit, back of the knee, inside thigh, etc. When the treated area lies against another, the heat factor gets magnified.

    And I would definitely wear gloves to apply AND wash your hands before going near your eyes.

  5. -this old mechanic&motorcycle racer advises:

    why not give absorbine HORSE liniment,

    extra virgin coconut oil& magnesium chloride a shot:

    all are non-irritating& the last two should be taken internally as well

    [google:'miracle of magnesium' 'miracle of coconut oil']

    – as for the pain pills,they DID do stuff to You,but it wasn't pretty.Good thing You dumped em.
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archiv
    Common painkillers linked to heart attack and stroke, research finds25 Oct 2006 … The drugs — classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — are used by millions of UK citizens to treat chronic pain and …
    http://www.naturalnews.com/020891_painkillers_heart_atta...

    -most importantly, no Dairy!
    http://www.notmilk.com
    [if You ignore this, then don't bother with supplements, as they won't be absorbed cuz of the dairy

    -lots of vit C, a bit of B complex,kelp,glucosamine,freshly ground flax seeds

    -body work: the hand pain is a consequence of shoulder,neck spine tension/misalignment, wch Structural Integration,aka,Rolfing, will set right

    cheers,

    d

    ps

    all this stuff took me 30yrs to figure out…

  6. -this old mechanic&motorcycle racer advises:

    why not give absorbine HORSE liniment,

    extra virgin coconut oil& magnesium chloride a shot:

    all are non-irritating& the last two should be taken internally as well

    [google:'miracle of magnesium' 'miracle of coconut oil']

    – as for the pain pills,they DID do stuff to You,but it wasn't pretty.Good thing You dumped em.
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archiv
    Common painkillers linked to heart attack and stroke, research finds25 Oct 2006 … The drugs — classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — are used by millions of UK citizens to treat chronic pain and …
    http://www.naturalnews.com/020891_painkillers_heart_atta...

    -most importantly, no Dairy!
    http://www.notmilk.com
    [if You ignore this, then don't bother with supplements, as they won't be absorbed cuz of the dairy

    -lots of vit C, a bit of B complex,kelp,glucosamine,freshly ground flax seeds

    -body work: the hand pain is a consequence of shoulder,neck spine tension/misalignment, wch Structural Integration,aka,Rolfing, will set right

    cheers,

    d

    ps

    all this stuff took me 30yrs to figure out…

  7. The action of capsaicin is to stimulate the nerves to the point of exhausting the neurotransmitters which allow the pain cycle to start, exacerbate and continue. It has been used for the treatment of diabetic neuropathic pain for a while, specifically because the Diabetes Mellitus patient with polyneuropathy will have the burning, stinging, shooting and life distrupting pain you may be having with the carpal entrapment. As you stated, there are myriad uses for this drug, but I have not found it particularly that useful in my pain patients. The circular for the medication itself states that it should be used about 4X a day and may take 4-6 weeks to work. For many of my patients, that—along with the shock of accidentally getting it into your eyes—and the cost makes it a poorer choice. My first admonition is to make sure the patient is getting enough B complex vitamins with the C vitamin. They, with folate are essential to nerve health. I don’t advocate “lots” of vitamins. The extras you take will just be excreted via the kidneys or metabolized via the liver and are a waste of money. Linus Pauling may have been nuts for “lots” of vitamin C, but this is not a fat soluable drug (unlike A, D, E and K) and what you aren’t using, you excrete or pass in the bile and/or stool. Glucosamine has shown results in joint pain, as chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate are part of the basement membrane upon which the collagen and hyalin cartilage of joints are made. Carpal tunnel is a nerve entrapment syndrome of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel (or may be a manifestation of a cervical spine entrapment presenting at the wrist, even though that is rare) and if it indeed localized to the carpal tunnel, it is not a “consequence of shoulder,neck spine tension/misalignment, wch Structural Integration,aka,Rolfing, will set right”. By the way, it is well known that certain drugs will not be absorbed from the gut in the presence of calcium (from antacids and dairy), including fluroquinolones like Ciprofloxicin, but I know of no suppliments or vitamins which are inhibited from absorption by dairy products (calcium), so go ahead and have a yogurt or a glass of milk when you take them.

    Diclofenac sodium comes in a topical application and has shown good relief of pain at the knee. You might try this as well on the carpal to see if the anti-inflammatory effect will work for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend God’s anti-inflammatory (ice, for 20 minutes of each hour, wrapped in a towel to avoid direct exposure of the skin) or a medication which is not a typical Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and would have a much safer profile to take longer than 14-20 days. This is the time after which the gastric erosive effects of drugs such as Naprosyn first start becoming acute. The COX-2 inhibitor class, including Celebrex™, 200mg QD, has a much lower profile of gastric irritation than Naproxsyn and is one pill a day as opposed to an 800mg, possibly 3 times a day. If you are allergic to sulfa drugs, you may react to Celecoxib.

    The mainstay of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, if you fail on COX-2, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, ice, peppers and prayer is steroid injections to reduce the inflammation of the fascial components within the carpal tunnel. The last resort is surgical release.

    Hope this helps.

  8. The action of capsaicin is to stimulate the nerves to the point of exhausting the neurotransmitters which allow the pain cycle to start, exacerbate and continue. It has been used for the treatment of diabetic neuropathic pain for a while, specifically because the Diabetes Mellitus patient with polyneuropathy will have the burning, stinging, shooting and life distrupting pain you may be having with the carpal entrapment. As you stated, there are myriad uses for this drug, but I have not found it particularly that useful in my pain patients. The circular for the medication itself states that it should be used about 4X a day and may take 4-6 weeks to work. For many of my patients, that—along with the shock of accidentally getting it into your eyes—and the cost makes it a poorer choice. My first admonition is to make sure the patient is getting enough B complex vitamins with the C vitamin. They, with folate are essential to nerve health. I don’t advocate “lots” of vitamins. The extras you take will just be excreted via the kidneys or metabolized via the liver and are a waste of money. Linus Pauling may have been nuts for “lots” of vitamin C, but this is not a fat soluable drug (unlike A, D, E and K) and what you aren’t using, you excrete or pass in the bile and/or stool. Glucosamine has shown results in joint pain, as chondroitin and glucosamine sulfate are part of the basement membrane upon which the collagen and hyalin cartilage of joints are made. Carpal tunnel is a nerve entrapment syndrome of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel (or may be a manifestation of a cervical spine entrapment presenting at the wrist, even though that is rare) and if it indeed localized to the carpal tunnel, it is not a “consequence of shoulder,neck spine tension/misalignment, wch Structural Integration,aka,Rolfing, will set right”. By the way, it is well known that certain drugs will not be absorbed from the gut in the presence of calcium (from antacids and dairy), including fluroquinolones like Ciprofloxicin, but I know of no suppliments or vitamins which are inhibited from absorption by dairy products (calcium), so go ahead and have a yogurt or a glass of milk when you take them.

    Diclofenac sodium comes in a topical application and has shown good relief of pain at the knee. You might try this as well on the carpal to see if the anti-inflammatory effect will work for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend God’s anti-inflammatory (ice, for 20 minutes of each hour, wrapped in a towel to avoid direct exposure of the skin) or a medication which is not a typical Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and would have a much safer profile to take longer than 14-20 days. This is the time after which the gastric erosive effects of drugs such as Naprosyn first start becoming acute. The COX-2 inhibitor class, including Celebrex™, 200mg QD, has a much lower profile of gastric irritation than Naproxsyn and is one pill a day as opposed to an 800mg, possibly 3 times a day. If you are allergic to sulfa drugs, you may react to Celecoxib.

    The mainstay of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, if you fail on COX-2, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, ice, peppers and prayer is steroid injections to reduce the inflammation of the fascial components within the carpal tunnel. The last resort is surgical release.

    Hope this helps.