Muscle and joint pain targeted by new products

April 1, 2009

Muscle and joint pain: New OTC products offer relief

Key Points

Shouts of "play ball!" announce the coming of spring, drawing people outside to resume their running, hiking, and biking. After the long winter layoff, the aching muscles and sore joints of those overeager spring athletes send them to the pharmacy for remedies. And waiting for them this year is an array of new OTC treatments that manufacturers have produced for just these symptoms.

Chattem is introducing several Icy Hot product-line extensions. Icy Hot products temporarily relieve minor pain associated with arthritis, simple backache, muscle strains, sprains, bruises, and cramps for adults and children over 12 years of age.

Vanishing Scent Gel, available in a 2.5-oz tube with a sponge applicator, has menthol as its active ingredient; the scent disappears within minutes.

For overnight relief and reduced morning stiffness, individuals with aching muscles can now use the Icy Hot PM Lotion or PM Patch, which adds capsaicin to the menthol.

Wyeth has introduced a new line of ThermaCare arthritis products offering an extra 4 hours of heat. Each of the three products - for hand or wrist, knee or elbow, and neck or shoulder - gives 12 hours of relief from muscle aches and joint flare-ups that might prevent arthritis sufferers or others from participating in spring gardening, golf, or other activities.

According to the manufacturer, heat therapy for muscle and joint pain stimulates thermoreceptors that respond to heat and cold, helps block the transmission of pain signals to the brain, and temporarily increases local blood circulation.

Poor blood circulation in muscles that are in spasm is believed to be one of the causes of muscle soreness.

Boiron has introduced its Arnicare Cream Value Pack as an option for treating muscle aches and stiffness, and relieving pain, swelling, and discoloration from bruises.

The new value pack pairs Boiron's 2.5-oz topical cream with 30 Arnica Montana oral pellets. Arnica Montana, the active ingredient in both products, is also known as the mountain daisy, a perennial plant commonly found growing in the northwestern United States and Central Europe.

Boiron states that Arnica is "one of the most popular homeopathic medicines worldwide that works safely and naturally with no reported side effects or known drug interactions."

The pellets dissolve under the tongue, bypassing the stomach, and are absorbed into the bloodstream. Each tube contains enough cream for five days of treatment.

In March, Mentholatum launched the WellPatch Capsaicin Pain Patch multipack of four single patches to a box. The odor-free, soft, and flexible hydrogel patch contains 0.025 percent pure capsaicin derived from chili peppers. The gel side of the pad is applied to the skin over the area of pain or muscle soreness. Pain relief lasts up to eight hours, according to the company.

Capsaicin works by stimulating a nerve-ending receptor in the skin, which sends a message to the brain and generates the sensation of pain. According to recent research by University of Buffalo scientists, the receptor acts like a gate to the neurons; when it is opened, outside calcium enters the cells until the receptor shuts down, a process known as desensitization. The analgesic action of capsaicin is believed to involve this desensitization process.

The newest item from Okamoto USA is the Neck, Shoulder & Wrist wrap, a new and improved pad that replaces the Neck & Shoulder four-pack. The new larger size is a three-pack of air-activated, nonmedicated heating pads.

Company literature says, "With our exclusive ingredient 'Purge mineral powder,' the warmth spreads with your own circulation."

Himalaya Herbal Healthcare has introduced Pure Herb Organic Turmeric, an herbal remedy for joint pain suffered by couch potatoes returning to outdoor activity. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a broad-spectrum herb that supports many different bodily systems. In India, it has been used for centuries as a food preservative.

How does this apply to aches and pains? The product literature explains, "Because of its strong antioxidant properties, turmeric has also been found to support the body's natural response to inflammation, making it an excellent herb to support joint health."

Reportedly, the herb also supports the body's natural response to oxidative cell damage, cellular growth, and a natural cleansing process.

Himalaya's new product contains 95 percent organic curcuminoids and has no additives. A bottle of the turmeric product contains 60 caplets.

A January FDA Public Health Advisory alerted consumers and healthcare professionals about the possibility of serious harm when heat therapy is applied to skin treated with topical analgesics containing lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, or prilocaine in a cream, ointment, or gel. Also, the risk of burning from heat-producing products increases as one ages. People over 55 should not use heat therapy while sleeping.

Dana K. Cassell, a frequent contributor to Drug Topics, lives in North Stratford, New Hampshire.