Massage therapists use a variety of tools and products to aid us in releasing your muscles. From custom made tools like our Scrapey® or Ribbit® to the use of products like oils, lotions, gels or creams (which work to reduce hand-to-skin friction and have different levels of absorption, glide, grip, slip or drag) preferences range from therapist to therapist and often even shift depending on the modality we’re performing (deep tissue, relaxation, sports rehabilitation, hot stone, etc).
While there are as many choices on the market as there are therapists, there are a couple we find particularly helpful in aiding the tough cases — those that contain Arnica or Capsaicin.
Capsaicin (that stuff that makes chiles hot) is made from chile peppers and is a safe and effective topical analgesic agent often used in the management of arthritis pain, herpes zoster-related pain, diabetic neuropathy, mastectomy pain, and even headaches. But when it’s applied to the skin, it becomes a powerful pain reliever. In its cream form, Capsaicin has been found to deplete substance P (a neurochemical that transmits pain messages in the body) temporarily disrupting pain for clients as we work.
In fact, in 13 out of 16 randomized controlled trials, involving a total of 1535 people, they found Capsaicin to be more effective the placebo.
Though those of us in the holistic community have extolled the benefits of Arnica Montana (the mountain daisy) for decades, it’s only becoming more widely known as western medical doctors like Dr. Weil and Dr. Oz have begun touting it’s amazing effects.
In fact, a recent study published in the International Journal of Medicine specifically looked at an Arnica cream that we like to use called, Traumeel. Now, first, we should say that Traumeel is more than just Arnica. It also contains 13 other natural active ingredients in its formulation, including things like Calendula, Chamomila and Belladonna (all of which help to reduce pain.) But what the study showed was groundbreaking in that it confirmed that Traumeel is just as effective as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen in terms of reducing symptoms of inflammation, accelerating recovery, and improving mobility and that it is better tolerated than those medications, and without most of the nasty potential side effects and contraindications of pharmaceuticals.
If you’d like to bring home a little massage therapy magic for those aches and pains in-between appointments, stop by New Seasons or Whole Foods and get your hands on some Capsaicin, Arnica or Traumeel cream and you’ll get relief without having to resort to over-the-counter medications.