Some Common "Remedies" for Long-Term Fascia Pain

Published: 16th November 2011
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The best treatment for damaged fascia is one of the most confusing matters for a layperson to understand. Unfortunately, many bad and ineffective treatments are being sold on websites that should know better. Below is a list of three of the most common suspects:

Number one: Menthol

Menthol is produced from mint plants. While capsaicin can produce a sensation of heat by triggering certain nerves, in much the same way, menthol can trigger different nerves to create a feeling of coolness. Capsaicin doesn't really increase the temperature of anything, but if you have a mouthful of hot peppers it sure can feel like it. In much the same fashion, menthol won't really lower the temperature of anything. Instead, it kind of tricks your cold-receptor nerves into thinking that it's become chilly.

So what's the connection between all this and fascia pain? Well, there are a lot of fasciitis treatment products out there, more often than not sprays or creams, that have menthol. These products often claim to provide "instant relief" from fascia pain with just a quick application. And using the product usually does result in a feeling similar to placing a cube of ice on your problem spot. There is a enjoyable cooling sensation, and after a bit the region will become somewhat numb. And so you feel some relief. For a little while, anyhow. (The thing is: ice really creates an objectively lower temperature, and this in turn has a medically proven beneficial effect on inflammation. Menthol doesn't.)

But these sprays and creams actually do more harm than good. For one thing, menthol has never been shown to have any real effect on the structure of fascia themselves. Another way of saying this is: no recovery occurs. If you get "relief" from the pain but still have the underlying issue, it becomes that much easier to dismiss your body's warning signals (which is what pain really is) and do something that's actually going to injure you. If that happens, you can quickly go from having a painful - but treatable - fascia to a ruptured fascia. And if that happens the only option is surgery.

Of course, menthol does have some genuine benefits. It makes chewing gum taste better, and probably is the ingredient that freshens your toothpaste. It can also give some relief if you stay out in the sun too long. However, any product that has menthol as part of its formulation should be avoided for fascia treatment and therapy.

Number Two: Capsaicin

The idea of trying capsaicin as a cure for tendon and fascia pain has gained a lot of attention on the internet lately. The theory is that, applied topically, capsaicin will create heat on a painful area and thus produce relief. The theory sounds good; people commonly use hot-packs for assorted aches and pains. But--similar to menthol--the problem is that capsaicin doesn't actually generate heat. Regardless of what your subjective feeling might be, there is no objective increase in temperature. The capsaicin just causes your body's heat sensors to respond as though there were real heat.

Bottom line: using capsaicin to try to relieve fascia pain is a dangerous plan. Icing something like a plantar fascia can be a good therapy for pain that's not overly severe and hasn't been around for long, but even that won't be effective for persistent pain. As for heat... well, heat just isn't on the scientifically-verified menu -- not even real heat. Also, there is absolutely no research showing that topical capsaicin creams and so on are effective, and anecdotal reports of people trying to rub chili powder and so on directly onto the skin usually end badly.

If you have lasting fascia pain, it's very probable that you've been told that your condition is fasciitis. But the chances of true fasciitis lasting longer than two weeks or so are very small. Instead, you almost undoubtedly have fasciosis, and in that case heating and cooling the affected area isn't going to help one bit. Long-term trouble ordinarily indicates fascia degeneration, not inflammation, and for that you're going to need some targeted exercises and a good nutritional strategy to rebuild the affected area.

Number Three: Herbal supplements

Herbal poultices, concoctions and powders are among the very favorite treatments of the alternative medicine crowd. While it is true that some herbal supplements can lessen fasciitis pain - if you take a sufficient dosage - none of them actually provide a cure. The most commonly recommended ones, such as boswellia and Devil's Claw, work through an inhibition in the production of COX-2. COX-2 is a type of enzyme. It is responsible for particular types of inflammation and pain. But long-term fascia pain is usually not inflammation. If you experience any relief from taking these supplements, it's most likely from their effect on pain reduction itself, not the underlying fascia problem.

Also, a lot of over-the-counter supplements simply don't have enough of whatever it is that they're selling in the pills to do any good. The minimal dose to have any effect whatsoever is going to be 100mg, so if you buy these types of supplements verify that you're actually getting an adequate amount to help. It would be better to get some type of enzymatic repair formula. That, and taking a good hard look at your diet to see where all the extra inflammation is coming from. But even these measures are more for prevention than cure. If you are suffering from long-term fascia pain, damage has probably already been done, and you're going to need a more aggressive approach to heal.


Alex Nordach has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 30 years and is an expert in the area of fascia and tendon structures. For cutting-edge information that isn't available anywhere else on the internet, click through to the Target Plantar Fasciitis blog at =>

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