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  • Writer's pictureLouise H Connolly MD

Pain Relief Potpourri


Quell and other TEMS machines.

TEMS machines interrupt the vicious cycle of pain radiating up the nerve from the sore spot, into the spinal cord to the brain. The brain just doesn't get the "make it hurt" message. Effects can last for hours to a few days after use. Electrodes are placed on the skin on the path between the hurting body part and the brain. They are either directly attached to a controlling device by wires or remotely hand operated. The more expensive the device, the more likely the control unit will be remote, with more power and more ways to modulate the current. Another factor is how comfortable or abrasive the electrodes are when activated. Quell is a great device for ankle or foot pain with a comfortable velcro thigh wrap containing the electrodes and a good remote.

ARP Wave

This device works on the principle that pain from tendonitis, muscle tears, sprains, or repetitive use injuries are due to muscles not doing their job. Thus the energy of a particular movement is transferred to tissue not designed to accept it. ARP wave helps isolate which muscles aren't working properly so that you can then rebuild them. Strengthen the right muscles, then heal the pain.

Tape It Up

Potentially using athletic tape to transfer the movement load to the right muscles could help along with specific exercises. Don't have an ARP Wave machine? Ask any physical therapist to show you how. Or go to, they'll show you how.

Topical Treatments

If your pain in close to the surface it may respond to topical treatment. There are a wide variety of agents available. Some are lidocaine based, a numbing agent similar to novocaine. Spray lidocaines include basic solarcaine then stronger types. These "caines" also come in creams, jellies and wraps. For example, there's "aspercreme", a combination of aspirin and lidocaine. It's OTC. Another popular spray is "biofreeze" Easy,cheap, why not try one of these out?

Prescriptions include lidocaine patches, used 12 hours at a time.. It's like a saran wrap you can cut and wear on the sore spot. There's also prescription 2% lidocaine jelly. Stronger, occluding, and non alcohol based. The big difference between a cream and an ointment or jelly is that creams are alcohol based, so if there is a break in the skin, they burn. Not so with jellies and ointments.

Others use anti-inflammatory (NSAID based), or prescription ketoprofen gel. Others are menthol/camphor/eucalyptus based (aromatherapy/cold based), hot (capsacian) based, homeopathic (arnicare), herbal based (traumeel) and more. So many different combinations, all with similar ingredients! Block the pain, decrease the inflammation, cool, heat, smell good. If you want an OTC product, ask the pharmacy tech just which brands sell the best. She knows. Unfortunately she deals with many repeat customers.

I like (and sell) a different product. It's a combination magnesium and MSM cream. Both are readily adsorbed through the skin. Magnesium relaxes the nerves that are keeping the muscles tight, MSM works on the ligaments and joints. Why take MSM by mouth for joint pain if you can put it directly on the spot? If you like more than one of these ideas, use different topicals in rotation. Numb it, reduce it's inflammation, relax it and support it.

A different option is a CBD (cannabis) topical. I sell 2 different kinds and strengths. They are very popular right now, but beware counterfeit or low grade products. They not only won't work but are very expensive.

Sacro Wedgie

This is a small relatively simple device used primarily for low back pain. With the help of gravity, it relaxes muscles, realigns and rebalances the lower back, hip and knee muscles. Good for low back pain, sciatica, piriformis syndrome. Built to relieve the pressure on the nerve causing the pinch.

Body Back Buddy

This appears to be the most versatile trigger point massage tool on the market. Just image a back scratcher configured like a double reverse candy cane with well placed different sized knobs to provide relief. If you can feel the kinks, you can reach them yourself.

One Good Book

I had to include this. It's one of those books that have stood the test of time, has helped thousands and addresses one of the most common and distressing forms of bodily pain: back pain. Dr. John E Sarno's book "Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection". It teaches you about why and where you store your day to day tension and transition it into pain. (Tension-Mytositis Syndrome) More importantly it teaches you how to change things without drugs, surgery, or exercise. Yes, you may well have arthritis, even a bulging disc, or some other orthopedic basis for your pain. But how you "hold yourself" also effects your pain. His 1999 book on the subject set the stage. His 2010 paperback is still a best seller


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