This has been bugging me for awhile since I am a long-time runner as well as a waitress. What nice pain-relieving rubbing cream is specifically designed to relieve foot pain? I just want to rub it in the night before and wake up, get out of bed, step on my feet, and not feel any pain. Any suggestions? - Victoria Drake
We live in a world where large numbers of doctors, scientists and research assistants come together in little groups to study one small aspect of many varied things. It is not immediately clear why they do this. It is possible that they just enjoy hanging out together, or perhaps the coffee is really good. What is clear is that they, and all of us, share a common opinion regarding an all too common sensory experience. We dislike pain.
It shouldn't be of any surprise to you, that when a large group of doctors, scientists and research assistants get together, they are going to make some effort towards the reduction of that tactile nemesis.
To answer your question in a meaningful way demands a fairly detailed study on the causes of pain, which time and space (here) will not allow. The question does deserve a more elaborate response than "take two aspirin and call me in the morning", thus I will focus here on the topical medications of the sort which might provide relieve to your foot pain.
The most common cause for foot pain (or any pain, for that matter) is inflammation. Why it is that our human tissues tend to become "inflamed" would be discussed within that "detailed study" that I have spared you from. Let us over generalize by saying that inflammation is part of the cure to any injury. When you sprain, break, tear or agitate any part of your foot, your bodies' defense system responds by injecting a higher concentration of white blood cells into the damaged area. Exactly why white blood cells are instrumental in healing is a fascinating subject, but not so fascinating that it should be discussed here. Instead, I ask you to accept my claim that inflammation is actually a good thing, although it tends to cause pain.
In my listing, here, of the commercial products used in the relief of pain, it is important to understand two key concepts. First, we here at Run the Planet do not endorse the use of any of these products, nor do we recommend your purchase of any named brand to relieve your particular ailment. Second, I am not a physician, although I may have "played doctor" in my college years where focus on running and education came a distant second to that of the opposite sex. Thus any implied recommendation on my part is not only suspect, but should be avoided at all cost.
Topical pain medications are available as balms, lotions, gels, creams, ointments and patches. Of these many forms, there are five distinct types of topical medications: salicylates, nsaids, analgesics, anesthetics, and counter-irritants.
Salicylates contain a chemical similar to aspirin and are designed to be absorbed into the skin to relieve pain. Examples include the branded products Aspercreme, BenGay and Sportscreme.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nsaids) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are produced in a gel or cream and, like salicylates, are designed to be absorbed into the skin. Some studies have been conducted (by those same coffee drinking doctors, scientist and research assistants we talked about earlier) to show that this class of pain relief products are not very effective over the long term.
Analgesics are useful in reducing pain in those suffering from mild arthritis. If your pain is focused around the "knuckles" and joints of the metatarsals or in your ankle, you might consider using the brand name products Capzasin-P, Menthacin, and Zostrix.
Anesthetics are used to relieve "local pain" to a specific area by disabling the nerve endings in the skin. Brand name anesthetics include Lanacane, Solarcain and Xylocaine.
Runners with knee pain, especially associated with chrondromalacia patella (runners knee) know the soothing attributes of topical counter-irritants such as Icy Hot, Mineral Ice, or Arthricare. My personal favorite is JointFlex which includes the active ingredient camphor. Counter-irritants create a warm or cool sensation over a painful joint or sore muscle. Other active ingredients include menthol, wintergreen, and eucalyptus (have you ever heard of a Panda Bear with muscle pain?). A clinical study, conducted in Australia, and reported within the "Journal of Rheumatology", concluded that a topical cream comprised of camphor, glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate and peppermint oil produced a "mean sustained reduction in pain at four and eight weeks". The SmartScience Laboratories product JointFlex IronMan Sports Pain Relief gel contains all these ingredients, and I can usually be found smearing a healthy dollop of the stuff on my shins and ankle to relieve the aging onset of pain.
Another personal favorite of mine, most used in the latter stages of a marathon, is the counter-irritant Tiger Balm, made from camphor, menthol, cajuput and clove oils. Produced in Singapore by the Haw Par Healthcare company, this foul smelling gel creates a lasting warm sensation on the skin which seeps deeply into the effected muscle to reduce pain. I tend to smear a palm-full of the stuff on my tightening hamstrings after mile 16 to keep me going through the last 10 miles.
To conclude here, you should know that pain is your bodies' way of reminding you that "you are broken", and should not be ignored. While many injured runners tire of hearing about the standard treatment of "rest, ice, compression, and elevation" (R.I.C.E.), this method is often the best for most injuries. Topical pain medications are helpful to relieve the pain associated with foot problems, but should never be used to "mask" pain in opposition to R.I.C.E.
So, lather yourself up with your favorite pain relieving goop, and remember all those doctors, scientists and research assistants who are, this very hour, working diligently to come up with some new salve made, no doubt, from coffee beans and chocolate. Those guys need to get outside more.
Run long and taper.