Pain Relief Patches- A Small Review

Estevao- Butter wouldn’t melt

A few weeks ago I was catapulted off my clever, quirky horse, Estevao.  Launched 6-8 feet into the air, I landed flat on my back.  Fast forward to the next morning when my muscles are aching so intensely I cannot get out of bed without assistance much to the amusement of my children. The following several days I spent working on pain relief. As an acupuncturist, I did use some needles but it’s not always easy to needle oneself especially when mobility is limited. As a herbalist, we used to have access to some great herbal patches that add both heat and herbal ingredients to the area but I didn’t have any at home and I needed something quick. Desperate for immediate relief I asked (okay- I begged) my husband to go to the local ASDA and buy anything he could find that displayed the words, “Pain Relief”. He came back with a few pain relief patches and a rub:

1: Deep Heat rub in a roller

2: Nurofen heat patches

3: Cura- heat patches.

Desperate for relief I tried them all.  Some worked, some didn’t.  So I thought I’d write up a small review in case it helps others.  But before I do I should add that a warm bath with magnesium flakes was my first choice as was sleep. Nothing helped relieve pain as much as those two.

The 3 above listed products are non-medicinal. The point of them is to add heat.  In Chinese medicine, adding heat brings blood and Qi to the area to promote healing.  Also, according to Chinese medicine principles, when Qi isn’t flowing, pain ensues.  Heat also has the property of moving Qi thus relieving pain.  It’s why in practice I may choose to use moxibustion or  a heat lamp.

Although I had fallen recently, I did not have any inflammation from injury such as spinal disc or tendon injury.  If I had, I would have gone to the doctor and considered adding ice directly to any inflamed injury point for 5 minutes and then altered it with heat for 5 minutes.  In my youth I trained and fell off many horses so I was pretty familiar with this type of pain and was confident I was not insured.  Still, I also contacted my co-worker and osteopath, James Adatia, for advice and scheduled an appointment.

So, here we go:

The deep heat rub didn’t work for me. I found no relief in it at all. It felt cold putting on because of the alcohol and when it did heat up, I personally felt it was irritating not soothing.  If I had been able to get out of bed on my own, I would have washed it off.  I didn’t use it twice.  It costs about £4.60 for 100ml although it does come in smaller sizes.

Nurofen patches state that they last up to 8 hours- which they did although it petered out in the end.  Still, there was heat and it was never too hot.  It had good stick and I liked how they made some for neck and shoulder that shaped around the shoulders. They worked adequately and I think if someone had mild ache or tension it might be a good choice. For my level of pain, it did very little. However, it stayed in place and yet wasn’t horribly painful to remove.  Two large patches cost about £5.

Cura- Heat patches were great. The heat lasted more than 24 hours and was quite intense. At one point, I even removed it in the night for awhile worrying it was too hot (be warned especially if someone is older and has thin skin!). The stickiness wasn’t the greatest but since I had so many options on where to put it being my whole body was sore I was able to place it on my sacrum and let my clothes hold it in place.  However, if you were using on, lets say, a shoulder, losing stickiness could be very annoying.   The other downside, it is a bit bulky and bulkier than the Nurofen patches. So, again, if on the shoulder- you’d have a hump.  No big deal for me but others might not like that so much.  That aside, I would definitely go with these patches as my first choice.  For about £8 you get 5 more patches then you get in Nurofen’s £5 pack and the heat lasts 3x as long for each patch.  This is definitely the best buy.

A few herbalist colleagues had commented about Belladonna Plasters.  Unlike the above plasters, these are medicinal and have alkaloids in them that relieve pain.  My herbal colleagues have reported good results so I purchased these later on when I had a few pain points lingering.  It states that these are for muscle and joint pain.  The reviews on these are quite impressive and I had very high hopes but, unfortunately, I didn’t find they helped.  They do not create any heat (although the site says they should) so you are really just depending on the medicinal aspect.  From a Chinese medicine perspective, heat is very helpful.  But my biggest disappointment was that the stickiness was so intense I felt like it was going to rip my skin off when I tried to remove it.  And it left glue on my back.  However, they come in a large patch and you can easily cut them down to whatever size you want.  So maybe cutting them into strips will reduce the pain when removing them.  I may give them another try…

On a final note, I did go to see my amazing osteopath, James Adatia, to make sure I wasn’t truly injured (I wasn’t- thanks, James!) and came to the conclusion that if I am going to get occasionally launched off horses I need to be both flexible and strong to recover.

My final phase of pain relief is restarting my yoga practice.  Now I just have to not fall off again.