Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Topical Pain Relief:  Magic Oil & Biofreeze

Because I focus on pain relief massage, there are two products I use a lot in treatment: what I call "Magic Oil" (arnica oil) and Biofreeze. I also sell them, so that people can have something to use for relief between massages. People often ask what the difference is, and what's better to use. The answer is: it depends on what's causing the pain. I'll compare and contrast the products here.

Magic Oil is for soreness due to overuse and injury. Biofreeze is a temporary pain blocker - an alternative to aspirin.

Magic Oil is an anti-inflammatory, specific for tissue trauma. It takes effect over several hours; but the effect will not "wear off." It is great for soreness due to:
    -Muscle soreness (from working out, doing unusual activities, etc)
    -Soreness from deep tissue massage
    -Pulled muscles, or sprains of tendons and ligaments
    -Injury or bruising - this includes auto accidents and surgery, as well as minor bumps & bruises.

Biofreeze is a non-drug, temporary pain blocker - the effect begins instantly, but wears off after a while, like aspirin. (It can be used up to four times each day.) It may work better for pain unrelated to tissue trauma, for instance: 
    -Pinched nerves, such as sciatica
    -Chronic neck & shoulder, or low back pain.

Magic Oil is simply olive oil infused with arnica flowers. There are many topical preparations of arnica out there - available in any health food store - and I have used many of them. I like to tell the story about how Magic Oil became my favorite. I had some very deep tissue work done on my ribs, and I was extremely sore. I used my favorite arnica product, but it didn't even touch the soreness - it was just as bad the next day! By coincidence, I received my first order of Magic Oil just then. So I tried it out, using a mere two drops on each side of my ribs, rubbing it in well. The next day, the soreness was completely gone! I was hooked, and haven't bought another product since.

Biofreeze is similar in action to Ben Gay, Icy Hot, Tiger Balm, capsaicin cream, and good old-fashioned liniment. These products work by a principle called "counter-irritation." It works like this: the brain can only process so many sensations at once. By applying something which causes either a cooling or heating sensation to the skin, it may override pain signals from the muscles and nerves underneath.

I prefer Biofreeze to the other products I mentioned above for several reasons. Unlike other products:
    -It's non-greasy, so it doesn't soak into your clothes
    -The scent vanishes after a few minutes, so you don't smell strange all day, and
    -The new hands-free applicator makes it perfect for applying to achy knuckles.

Although these are general guidelines, "your mileage may vary." Some of my clients actually prefer the Magic Oil for arthritic joints, for instance. And I find that Biofreeze seems to work on some types of pain better than others. The best way to find out is to experiment and see for yourself.

If you're interested in either one, just ask me about it next time you're in. We can try them in treatment, and I also have Biofreeze samples you can take home.

Magic Oil 1/2 oz  $15,  1 oz $25
Biofreeze 4 oz $17.50
(Prices include tax)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Eggs as bad as smoking? What a Yolk!


I'm sure most of you have heard this week's headline about "Egg Yolks are as Bad as Smoking" for your arteries. If you actually look at the study, though, you will see that it is SERIOUSLY flawed.

From an article at ABC news: “’This is very poor quality research that should not influence patient’s dietary choices,’ said Dr. Steven Nissen, who chairs the department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, in an email. ‘It is extremely important to understand the differences between ‘association’ and ‘causation’.’”

All the study participants ALREADY had cardiovascular disease, or were at risk for it. This study relied on people's memory (which is notoriously unreliable) as to how many egg yolks they ate. But worst of all, this study did NOT take into account the other elements in people's diets, their excercise habits, or sleep habits. It also didn't look at whether they are an "apple" or a "pear," or whether they are a "Type A."

Therefore, this study has made the mistake of mixing up CORRELATION and CAUSATION.  For example, more people go to the beach when it's sunny. But you would be mistaken in thinking that it becomes sunny when enough people show up at the beach. 

I'd guess that people who eat less egg yolks are generally more health-conscious (since egg yolks have recieved such a bad rap for the last 30 years). It may well be that they also eat less sugar, eat more veggies, excercise more, sleep more, use more stress-reduction techniques, drink and smoke less, etc. And those people who ate more egg yolks may well have been eating more Twinkies and drinking beer while being couch potatos.

The study could have looked, for instance, at people's sugar consumption, or their consumption of refined foods, and might have found the same correlation. Then we'd have been seeing headlines that say, "Sugar is as Bad as Smoking!" 

But as many of you have heard me say: it's never just one thing. Most health conditions are caused by a combination of factors.

Let's just be logical for a moment. A hundred years ago, people consumed lots of eggs. Nobody even thought about just eating the white. And our heart disease rate was much, much lower than it is now! Nowadays many Americans eat mostly packaged, processed food. We also consume vast quantities of sugar compared to the past. And these researchers are trying to blame poor little eggs for our clogged arteries?

Not to mention, it doesn't usually turn out to be a good idea to take a whole food and eat just part of it. For example, white flour or white rice aren't exactly known as being healthful foods. In the case of an egg, there is protein in the white, but all the other good stuff like antioxidants, lethicin, and omega-3s are in the yolk.

On top of all that: The underlying assumption is if you eat more cholesterol, more plaque builds up on your arteries. Well, that was disproven many years ago! Your own body actually produces cholesterol, and your levels have little to do with how much you consume. It's more about your genes.

For example, I once took classes from a young and healthy aerobics instructor who taught three classes a day. She was eating less than 10% of calories from fat, and consuming no animal products (so no cholesterol). Her cholesterol was still over 300 - twice as high as normal!  (If I knew then what I know now, I'd have suggested she take up meditation.)

Eggs with their yolks are a healthy, nutritious, whole food that have been consumed by humans for millions of years. Unless you are allergic to them, please go ahead and eat them.  Some feel that soft-cooked, unbroken yolks are particularly healthy (unbroken yolks maximize the antioxidants.) Although, I should mention the FDA doesn't recommend you eat them soft-cooked because of salmonella concerns. I eat them soft anyway. (Salmonella is usually on the shell; cracking your eggs on a plate rather than the edge of a bowl minimizes shell-to-egg contact.)

It's my opinion that 1) exercise that you enjoy and gets your blood moving, and 2) stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and progressive relaxation, are probably the most important things we can do to lower our risk of cardiovascular disease.

Here are some links if you want to read more.

ABC News: "Egg Study Not All It's Cracked Up To Be"
"Your Doctor's Orders" website on the egg study
"Your Doctor's Orders" website on dietary fat