Does It Work: Arnica Gel, Topricin, "Healing" Lotions

>> Tuesday, February 02, 2010

I have bad heels. They're always just a little sore. Sometimes they get worse. So I've tried "pain relief" creams to see if they can help. A friend recommended Traumeel to me. I couldn't find Traumeel at my local GNC, but the "dude" working there recommended Arnica Gel:

I started using it once or twice a day. It seemed to help. But I also was using it just after stretching and foam-rolling, so I don't know how much of it was the gel.

In December, I won a "Worst Race Photo" contest with the photo I took of myself with my frozen face and bloody nose after last year's Winter Carnival Half Marathon in -15 conditions. (Great contest idea, BTW!) The contest was put on by Topricin, which is a pain relief cream. Because I won, I was sent all different kinds of Topricin:

The "tubs" are their normal stuff, and the bottles are their foot cream

I posted something in a forum online regarding Topricin. I asked if anyone has used it and/or buys into their claims. A day later, I had an e-mail from the President (and Chief of Research) of Topricin, saying he'd be glad to talk about his products. I told him I was skeptical and asked for more info - specifically, who uses their product and what doctors think. Here are some excerpts of what he sent me:

Hi Steve,

Truly appreciate your response and questions. As I mentioned in my email it is important to maintain a healthy skepticism regarding products as many make marketing claims that simply are not true.

Those to endorse or use Topricin are many but here are just a few notables: Ivan Lendl, Billie Jean King, Nancy Kerrigan, Freeman McNeal, Paul Polamalu, Uta Pippig, Anthony Davis (USC fame), Mark Sanchez. In addition the Boulder Road Runners, specifically Rich Castro has trained world class runners from around the world for over 10 years using Topricin.

As to primary doctors many are NYC based, a tough environment to say the least for any product and they include: the Hospital for Special Surgery as well as the Integrative medicine program at Beth Israel (CCHH) and more. Here are excerpts of their comments:

Resolves many musculoskeletal issues especially as they relate to severe trauma and neuropathic pain.
Measurable reduction in recovery for many patients are trauma injury or post surgical trauma
Measurable reduction in the amount of pain meds used for patients
Valuable adjunct to all physical therapies
Successful in reducing the adverse reactions of both radiation and chemo as a support oncology treatment protocols

Closer to home for you Partners in Healing of Minneapolis are users of Topricin.

He goes on later to say this:

FYI: Topricin is regulated by the FDA as an OTC medicine. We have been in business for 16 years, and are very dedicated to the doctor patient relationship. The products formulary works by helping the body’s affected pain area to achieve homeostatic balance, vital for supporting and enhancing the healing process, with healing being the ultimate means of pain relief.

So unlike analgesics (topical smelly greasy hot ointments and or oral pain meds) that mask pain symptoms, Topricin was designed to ease the symptom pain by helping the body to address the cause of the pain. Helping the person have a safer and in most cases a more effective means of addressing the pain issues. The product produces no side effects, and can reduce the side effects of oral pain meds by reducing need/dependency for all classifications of oral pain meds for the individual.

I like what he's saying, but is it all true? Is that really how it works? And do those people all use it regularly?

Quick side-story: My grandpa has recently been complaining about pain in his hands. He needs to take pain-killers (which he doesn't like to have to do) before he can pitch horseshoes. And he's DANG GOOD at pitching horseshoes: he's placed first 9 out of the last 11 years (or something crazy like that) in his "old folks trailer park" where he and grandma stay for 4 months each year! Here he is teaching Pharmie how to throw a horseshoe:

And here he his measuring to see if one of my throws counts for any points:

Pretty limber for 81, isn't he?!

Anyway, to speed this story up, I sent him a few of the small packages of Topricin to see if they would help his hands. He started using it, and he could feel a difference right away. He was about to run out of the packets I sent him, so he had to save the last packet to use during a big day of bowling. He used it just before bowling, and he bowled a 214 game with a series over 500! CRAZY! So I mailed him one of the bigger tubs to use as well. He really likes the stuff!

Arnica Gel: Grade of C+. It's very "pure," so that makes me feel safer using it. But I don't know HOW much it has helped me.

Topricin: Grade of C+. I feel like it's helped me more than arnica gel, but I have to admit that I'm nervous rubbing a cream with all kinds of "stuff" in it on my body. And is it really helping my body heal itself like their president claims? Or is it just masking the symptoms? (BTW, Topricin also contains arnica gel.)

Topricin (after taking into account my Grandpa's raving endorsement): Grade of B+. My Grandpa is a no-nonsense kind of guy. If he's been seeing an improvement with his arthritic hands, then I'm pretty convinced it works. I need to try Topricin more before I make my final call of it being "OK but not stellar."

So, have you used Topricin? Arnica Gel? Traumeel? Have you found anything to help with pain, inflammation, or overuse injuries? Let us know what you've found. And don't forget to check back at 2 am and 2 pm every day this week for more “Does It Work” posts. Click on the “Does It Work” tag to see all posts in this mini-series.


Jill 3:48 PM, February 02, 2010  

I've never used those two products but sometimes I use Tiger Balm and it helps some. I know many use Biofreeze but when I got a free sample in a race bag and used it, I didn't notice much of a difference. But that was a marathon and everything was hurting anyway. Ha. I have heel annoyance from time to time, too.

Kim 3:50 PM, February 02, 2010  

just use aquaphor for anything.

chafing va jay jay? use aquaphor.

chapped lips (va jay jay related)? use aquaphor?

alleviating pain in the yum yum areas? use aquaphor.

Greenking17 "TRI-harder" 4:48 PM, February 02, 2010  

Wow Kim...what have you been doing with your time lately? Just asking...!

I've had reoccuring (sp) knee pain for about a year now. I go with the good old ice substitute in that case but would be interested to see if some of these topical ointments would help to some degree.

As for chapped lips that are va jay jay related, I'm gonna start using aquaphor!

Anapico 5:22 PM, February 02, 2010  

I'm a racing sailor, and sailing sometimes involves being banged about a bit. Last time I was thrown into a hard object and racked my shin up good, a crewmate gave me arnica gel to put on the bruised area. I've had this injury many times before and it always results in a large raised, hard contusion on my shin. My crewmate made me re-apply the arnica every two hours, without fail, and gave me a tube of the stuff to take home to continue the therapy.

Next day: A cute little flat blue bruise. Ordinary it would be a swollen, raised, hard, purple, green & yellow bruise, and would take a good week to heal. This time, a couple more easy days and it was gone.

I'm a big arnica convert after that.

X-Country2 5:26 PM, February 02, 2010  

Interesting. Lotions and potions are always fun to try.

RW 5:35 PM, February 02, 2010  

Traumeel (and Arnica to a lesser but considerable extent) are great for acute trauma, like after rolling an ankle or getting hit by a blunt object (door, pole, stubbing toe hard). They take down swelling really well and speed your way through the whole bruising process. I'm less convinced of their effectiveness on lingering injuries (like shin splints, plantar faciatis, or my posterior tibialis tendonitis) although I've been known to rub some on in desperation from time to time. Figure, its all natural so it can't hurt.

Unknown 6:02 PM, February 02, 2010  

I really like Arnica cream. I am a barefoot runner and sometimes the bottoms of my feet are quite sore after a 10 or more mile run and the cream really seems to help.

live better 7:18 PM, February 02, 2010  

I have had some relief from my heel pain (plantar fasciitis) with Capzasin. My Tai Chi teacher told me to try Traumeel but I did not get that yet.

D 1:09 AM, February 03, 2010  

I've use a topical ibuprofen and thought it was awesome (posterior tibial tendonitis) which is why I told my dad he should try the topical stuff the doc recommended to him when he was skeptical.

I'm not sure exactly what the product is, but my dad is using a topical pain reliever on his knees - he's needed a double knee replacement for over 10 years and can't take many of the typical oral pain killers (he has a pace maker). He says it's expensive (prescription), but works fantastically.

All that said, I don't think these topical items are doing anything but masking symptoms. In both of our cases, that's what we were looking for from them.

And since my comment is super long already... I just want to point out that my dad is a remarkably healthy guy at 72 years old despite his knees & pacemaker. This is a guy who STILL rides the bike daily for at least 40mins and once ran Olympic qualifying times on the track :)

Lucinda 3:10 AM, February 03, 2010  

I have arnica cream/rub. Kiwis swear by it, as an Aussie, of course I thought twice about it. But i find it really helps me. I use it sometimes on my lower back, especially after a hard out cardio session at lunch, and i'm sitting back at my desk. Plus I like the smell!

Regina 9:55 AM, February 03, 2010  

Can't speak to the products as I haven't used them at all. That link back to the post with the 'worst' photo; you all have such fabulous teeth!

LoveOfShoes 10:41 AM, February 03, 2010  

I used Traumeel and found it helped reduce inflammation and bruising after intense ART/Graston sessions.

I use Arnica on my shins, calves and IT band to help with self massage when they are sore and really do think it makes a difference!

Kim 12:39 PM, February 03, 2010  

on a side note.

i have used Capzasin once...see this post...

and i will NEVER use it again.

drdaven 1:27 PM, February 03, 2010  

I have patients and my wife has clients (she is a fitness trainer) who absolutely swear by Arnica.

D ... You'd better stock up on the Ibuprofen rub/lotion because they don't sell it anymore (according to my distributors). At least not until the FDA clears it. You can still get it in a script. Same exact stuff as the over-the-counter one. Go figure!!??

D 6:43 PM, February 03, 2010  

Thanks for the tip, drdaven.
It's actually not available at all up here (I'm from Canadia) and was just lucky that the ART therapist brought some up from the States with her.

Herryponting 2:06 AM, April 05, 2012  

Nice to pain relief,
& thanks for the greatest useful tips.
Arnica Gel Products

Segue,  5:11 PM, September 19, 2013  

There's Sombra and Gebauer's Instant Ice. Do your own research to find out if they are helpful to you in any way...

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