Arthritis sometimes delivers a double dose of pain: Aching joints, that are accompanied by peripheral neuropathy. This condition refers to nerve damage pain in your hands or feet, that ranges anywhere from numbness and tingling, to burning, sharp, stinging zaps.
Peripheral neuropathy is most closely associated with diabetes. But this specific type of pain is also triggered when the arthritic swelling of tendons and ligaments put pressure on your nerve pathways.
Conventional neuropathy treatments include antidepressants, anti-epileptics, and opioid drugs — all of which are completely unnecessary, and some of which take pain relief to dangerous extremes.
A far safer and highly effective approach can be found with a botanical called capsaicin that, ironically, employs a natural heat to douse your burning pain.
Feeling the burn can cool your flare-ups
Capsaicin is the active component of chili peppers. And a surprising amount of research has been devoted to investigating capsaicin’s effects on peripheral neuropathy pain.
Recently, Oxford University researchers reviewed nine of these double-blind, placebo-controlled trials which included more than 1,600 patients. Each trial tested capsaicin creams or high-dose capsaicin patches.
In the capsaicin groups, more than 40 percent said they experienced “some degree of pain relief,” with many participants reporting their pain reduced by half or more.
In studies where a capsaicin patch was kept on the pain site for 30 to 90 minutes, nearly 40 percent said their pain was reduced by at least one-third, compared to placebo.
But the beauty of using capsaicin to relieve peripheral neuropathy pain in arthritis is that it also offers significant relief for aching joints.
In Dr. Marc Micozzi’s Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol, he agrees that it might seem contradictory to seek pain relief with a cream that causes a slight burning sensation when applied to your skin.
But as he explains, the capsaicin in chili pepper “works on your joints in mysterious ways.”
Less pain equals greater mobility
In a literal case of fighting fire with fire, Dr. Micozzi explains that as capsaicin’s mild burning sensation subsides, pain at the site also begins to melt away.
Exactly how this transformation occurs is currently unknown by researchers, but one well-substantiated theory suggests that capsaicin affects a protein in the nerve fibers of your joints called substance P, which relays pain messages to the brain.
Researchers have found that synovial fluid in the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients contains higher concentrations of substance P as compared to people with normal joints.
But everything changes when capsaicin is introduced.
Dr. Micozzi explains, “The application of topical capsaicin — say, to an arthritic knee — stimulates the release of substance P. Substance P is depleted in that area, and the pain stops.”
Some evidence also shows that capsaicin prompts the brain to release endorphins. But whatever its mechanisms of action may be, clinical trials have concluded that capsaicin works.
For instance, researchers at Northwestern University gave 0.075 percent capsaicin cream (Civamide®) to 350 volunteers with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis, while another 350 volunteers got a placebo.
Dr. Micozzi describes the results: “Those getting the real cream had less pain — when walking, climbing stairs, carrying objects, lying down, and during the night. They could move around better, too — for example, when getting up from a chair, putting on socks, going shopping, or doing housework.”
In another study cited by Dr. Micozzi, researchers reported a 33 percent pain reduction in knee osteoarthritis patients, and an astounding reduction in pain of nearly 60 percent in participants with rheumatoid arthritis.
The various ways to use this red-hot pain remedy
Dr. Micozzi notes that capsaicin can also reach your joints through your blood. He says, “Try cooking dinner tonight with hot peppers. The effect can be immediate and lasting: After the meal, and the next morning, you’re likely to see a real difference in how your joints feel.”
Topical capsaicin product makers blend the herb into over-the-counter gels, lotions, patches, and sticks, usually in strengths of 0.025 percent or 0.075 percent.
But before you try a topical preparation, Dr. Micozzi offers this word of caution: “Test a small amount on a patch of skin to make sure you’re not allergic to it — if the area becomes red, itchy and/or bumpy, this remedy isn’t for you.”
And he adds one more important note… After using it, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly so you don’t get any residue on sensitive tissues like your eyes, mouth, or nose.
Capsaicin also thins the blood, which can be a plus for certain patients. In fact, capsaicin also helps keep arteries elastic and healthy. Nevertheless, anyone who uses a prescription blood thinning drug or daily aspirin therapy should talk to their doctor before trying capsaicin.
Of course, capsaicin is just one of many effective, non-drug approaches that Dr. Micozzi highlights in his Arthritis Relief and Reversal Protocol. Click here to learn more about this remarkable online learning tool, or to sign up today.
“Topical capsaicin (high concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017; Issue 1, Art.No.:CD007393. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007393.pub4.