You never appreciate physical abilities so much as when they’re suddenly gone. As a writer and Web editor, the ability to type efficiently is vital.
Last week, returning from a road trip and pushing hard through snow squalls trying to make it to the bank before it closed, the call of nature became unignorable. I pulled the truck off on a spot that looked promising for a quick trip to the bushes, and headed down an incline covered with fresh snow toward the woods. Unhappily, beneath the snow lurked glare ice, and I went down hard, reflexively attempting to break my fall with my left arm. Bad move, as a shot of intense pain signaled. I scrambled to regain my feet, took another two steps, and wiped out again, this time taking the primary impact in the upper middle of my back. More pain. Now it hurt to breathe, too.
I managed to remain upright while completing my intended — uh –mission, returned to the truck, and even managed to make it to the bank before closing time to conduct my business there, albeit rattled, in pain, and probably suffering from shock. I could drive, but parking maneuvers caused sharp shots of wrist pain. Good to be home, but concerned about how badly I was injured and whether I would still be able to work.
Computers and iOS devices are the main tools of my trade. Being afflicted with chronic polyneuritis and fibromyalgia, I’ve struggled with computer interfacing pain for nearly two decades. I’ve developed an array of defense measures, such as choosing input devices carefully and switching among them frequently to spread the stress, using dictation software when practical, and a foot mouse for clicking at my office workstation. However, I’d never had to cope with near-complete one-handedness before, and that first evening I figured I was down to about ten percent use of my left hand.
Things to be thankful for included the fact I’m right-handed, and that I hadn’t hit my head in either of the falls. There seemed to be no evidence of broken bones, so I decided against visiting the emergency department, but as the evening progressed the pain in my wrist and forearm intensified, and my hand began swelling. I found I couldn’t even hold a teacup. Some right-handed Web searching on the iPad yielded unpromising prognoses about recovery time for wrist sprains ranging from ten days into months. I also started applying Topricin.
“What’s Topricin?” – you may be asking. It’s a topical homeopathic cream claimed to be effective for relieving symptoms of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) pain, such as pain from typing or mousing (also swiping, tapping, and texting), pain from spending too many hours on computers and mobile devices, or ‘text neck’ — another category of ergonomic stress reportedly on the rise — associated with frequent texting or looking down at your mobile screen for extended periods of handheld device use, as smartphones, e-readers and tablets become the platform of choice for many users, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), arthritis pain, sprains and strains, and other types of muscle and soft tissue pain, including sports or accidental trauma injuries.
Homeopathy is nothing if not controversial — a category of alternative or complimentary medicine whose practitioners claim to treat patients using REALLY highly diluted preparations of substances that homeopaths believe in higher doses would cause symptoms similar to those exhibited by the patient in healthy people. The basic principle of homeopathy, the “law of similars”, is “let like be cured by like” — a term coined by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, and a subject of vigorous dispute ever since.
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with vigorous shaking followed by forceful striking on an elastic body, a process homeopaths call “succussion”. Each dilution followed by succussion is purported to increase the effectiveness — a phenomenon homeopaths call “potentization.” Skeptics call it bunkum. Dilution often continues until no detectable trace of the original substance remains, although in homeopathic theory, an “echo” is still residual. Apart from noting symptoms, homeopaths examine aspects of the patient’s physical and psychological health, then consult homeopathic reference books known as repertories, with a remedy selected based on the comprehensive symptoms profile, the objective being to address the illness of the whole person at a deep level.
FWIW, a Huffington Post op-ed by homeopath Dana Ullman reports that a late 2011 Swiss government report on homeopathic medicine represents the most comprehensive evaluation of homeopathy and complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments ever commissioned by a government. and has been published in book form in English (Bornhoft and Matthiessen, 2011). According to Ullman, the report affirms that homeopathic treatment is both effective and cost-effective and that homeopathic treatment should be reimbursed by Switzerland’s national health insurance program. Moreover, approximately half of the Swiss population have used CAM treatments and value them. Further, Ullman reports that about half of Swiss physicians consider CAM treatments to be effective, and that perhaps most significantly, 85 percent of the Swiss population want CAM therapies to be a part of their country’s health insurance program.
However, from a conventional allopathic Medical Model perspective, there’s no rational or scientifically plausible reason why homeopathy should work. More than a century ago, lexicographer and studied cynic Ambrose Bierce defined homeopathy as “imaginary medicine for imaginary illnesses.”
I’ve been a patient over the years of at least seven licensed professionals who practiced homeopathy to varying degrees, five of them were MDs, one a naturopath, and one a pure homeopath, although only the latter relied solely, or even primarily, on homeopathic treatments. Based on my experience with various homeopathic therapies, I’m neither a convinced cheerleader nor a hardened skeptic. Some homeopathic remedies have anecdotally seemed to work. Others did not.
Specifically, many people claim empirically that Topricin does work, and despite my skepticism, I’m cautiously and provisionally one of them.
Last winter, I received some review samples of Topricin, which was introduced by Topical Biometrics Inc. in 1994, and is claimed to be America’s leading natural therapeutic topical treatment. The anchor product combines 11 different homeopathic medicines that are claimed to work synergistically to relieve pain associated with a wide range of ailments and injuries, including fibromyalgia, arthritis, lower back and shoulder pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sports injuries.
Coincidentally the samples arrived the week of Apple’s third-generation iPad announcement. I’d been typing up a storm, and perhaps also aggravated by firewood-handling and cold weather, I developed pain first at the base of my right thumb. That was soon mirrored on the left hand as well. I don’t like taking analgesics for that type of pain. I can’t use Aspirin, Ibuprofen or other NSAIDS because they aggravate my chronic gastritis, Acetaminophen doesn’t do much for this sort of pain and has no anti-inflammatory effect, so at best just masks pain symptoms. Stronger pain-killers make one dopey and have other side-effect problems. However, there seemed no downside to trying out the Topricin, which has no known side-effects and is claimed to promote healing as well as pain relief.
I popped open the tube and rubbed some onto the sore spots. The Topricin cream has no odor or scent, which I appreciated, since Multiple Chemical Sensitivities is part of my Fibromyalgia profile. It seemed to be readily absorbed by my skin — the objective noted in the instructions. Homeopathic ingredients are suspended in a vehicle mixture of coconut oil and glycerine, which I found doesn’t leave an objectionable greasy residue.
So, did Topricin work for my sore hands? Well, a day after I started applying it, the pain had decreased, and I managed to get through the iPad release day without great discomfort. At two days, I was definitely on the mend, and the symptoms had disappeared by the third day. Would the quick recovery have happened anyway even without application of Topricin? That’s the imponderable of course. However, the positive outcome was anecdotally interesting, especially since the Topricin also seemed to be helping with another rheumatic pain problem and/or injury that had been plaguing me for a couple of months at the time.
Last spring I got another “opportunity” to field-test Topricin. A new truckload of winter firewood arrived earlier in the week — mostly yellow birch and ash, which provide a lot of heat but are heavy and hard. It needed splitting and piling to dry over the summer. I do have a hydraulic wood-splitter, but you still have to handle the stuff, and after several-hour sessions on consecutive days, I woke up with my left wrist so sore that I could hardly lift and hold my iPad.
I started applying Topricin again, not with a great deal of optimism, since this wrist pain episode was much more intense than the one back in March had been. However, by early evening I thought I was noticing some improvement, and by bedtime I knew I was in considerably less pain, which was almost gone by morning, remaining so notwithstanding another tentative attack on the woodpile.
So it looked like a two-for-two for Topricin, at least subjectively, which proves nothing of course. Without controls and scientific analysis there’s no way of knowing whether either injury would or would not have cleared just as quickly on their own. However, I was provisionally impressed — enough to continue experimenting with Topricin for future aches and pains, such as this latest injury trauma contretemps.
I really wasn’t optimistic this time, but there was nothing to lose in trying. I iced the wrist with a bag of frozen corn, rubbed in a copious amount of Topricin, wrapped it in an elastic bandage my wife had left over from her tennis-playing days, took some Tylenol, and went to bed.
By the next morning, the pain was dramatically less as long as I didn’t try to pick up anything heavier than a teacup, or grip anything with my thumb. However, when at rest, no pain. The swelling was pretty well gone by day four, and at day six There’s been steady but frustratingly gradual improvement. I’m continuing with the elastic bandage and the Topricin, and once again my inference is that the homeopathic cream is helping with pain and speeding (so to speak) healing.
I don’t want to oversell this. I anticipate that it will be weeks, if not months before I have reasonably full use of the hand back. After a week, I still can’t pick up anything that weighs more than the iPad, or grip with my left thumb. Looks like a long, frustrating recovery wait ahead yet.
However, I can type, carefully, even on the iPad’s virtual keyboard, which is a relief, even though I have to pace myself. Re-injury is the hobgoblin of recovery from sprains and ligament strains.
A big advantage of homeopathic therapy as I see it is that the medicines tend to be relatively inexpensive, and at worst won’t cause any harm — given the extreme dilutions, not something to discount lightly with pharmaceutical side-effects reportedly now one of the top three causes of death in North America. I have to say that the explanation of how Homeopathy works still sounds nonsensical to me, but I’m humble enough to venture that just because I find the concept hard to accept on scientific grounds doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. And so far Topricin seems to. Conventional scientific knowledge and medical theory don’t explain everything.
It’s very hard to give a product like Topricin a numerical rating. Based on subjective impressions from use, I might give it a three or four out of five, but I hasten to emphasize that your experience may vary.
Topricin is available directly from the Topical BioMedics online store, and also in pharmacies, natural food stores, and other retailers, including Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, Fred Meyer, and Wegmans. A 2-ounce tube of Topricin Ointment sells for $16.95, and the product is also available in two larger sizes: a 4-ounce jar for $24.95, and an 8-ounce bottle at $39.95. Street prices may be less.
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