DEAR PHARMACIST

How to reduce pain and inflammation


Published: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 at 5:18 p.m.

Q: What do you recommend for strains, sprains and spasms? I'm an athlete and have something happen all the time!

— T.S., Dallas

A: It's great you're committed to staying fit; I'm a gym junkie myself. Studies prove exercise boosts your cognitive function and memory recall, improves mitochondrial function, spreads healthier DNA and improves mood. It makes your jeans look good, too! But one misplaced step can result in an injury that hurts for days, or longer.

A sprain refers to a stretched or torn ligament, for example, in the wrist or ankle. Ligaments connect bones to other bones at a joint. Some of you feel a “pop” when it happens. A strain refers to a stretched or torn muscle/tendon. Strains cause pain, swelling and sometimes muscle spasms. No fun! Medicines usually treat the smoke, not the fire. To quickly improve your level of comfort consider RICE.

The RICE acronym will help you remember essential steps to relieve a strained ankle, wrist or other area. “R” is for rest. It's important to minimize use of the affected area while it heals. Also important immediately after a strain is the “I” for ice. Ice reduces swelling that occurs while your body sends blood to bring white blood cells and nutrients to the hurt area. The “C” is for compression, which also helps with inflammation. Finally, “E” is for elevation. Keeping the strained joint elevated sometimes decreases inflammation, but a physician should be consulted. Certain supplements may provide natural relief for pain and swelling, thus treating the “fire.”

Here goes:

Arnica: Arnica montana can be taken as homeopathic pellets, or applied directly to your skin. I like Traumeel made by Heel, because it has arnica plus other ingredients that reduce pain and inflammation.

Astaxanthin: A super nutrient and protective antioxidant, science shows it is remarkable at suppressing NF-kappaB, a chemical pathway in your body that spits out compounds, that when produced in excess, create pain: Prostaglandins, TNFa, IL-1B, iNOS and others. Twelve milligrams of this one is my go-to supplement after excessive boogying at Zumba!

Comfrey: This herb has been shown to decrease swelling from sprains and strains. It contains allantoin which reduces inflammation. When applied to the skin, Comfrey ointments can help with bruising, pulled muscles and ligaments, sprains, strains and osteoarthritis. Comfrey is sold at health food stores.

Magnesium Malate: A specific type of magnesium bound to an apple extract (malic acid) which helps muscle spasm and pain, even fibromyalgia. Epsom salt baths are great, toss in a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil.

Turmeric and Garlic: Cooking with these ingredients (or supplementing) improves muscle recovery and reduces inflammation by suppressing pain-causing cytokines all over the body.

Zinc: After a trauma or injury, your body requires extra minerals to expedite the healing process. Zinc is particularly supportive for wound healing (and prostate health). Supplementing your zinc and vitamin C may shorten your healing time and rebuild soft tissue connections.

This column is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose you. To submit a question visit www.DearPharmacist.com.

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