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    A real pain in the neck — and shoulders, head, back . . .

    Selfcare/OTC

    Recent market research reports that more than 1.5 billion people around the world suffer from chronic pain. In America alone, it affects 100 million people, which is more than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer do combined, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). And the cost of chronic pain, in the form of medical bills, sick days, and lost productivity, is staggering — $560-$635 billion per year, or about $2,000 for every person living in the United States.

    The top three causes of pain in U.S. adults are low-back pain (28.1%), knee pain (19.5%), and severe headache or migraine (16.1%), according to the Institute of Medicine’s report, “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research, 2011.”

    In fact, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under the age of 45; more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain, according to AAPM.

    And many want something done to help curb it. In a study conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for Research! America, 70% of Americans said that pain should be one of the medical community’s top priorities.

    Although pain is a universal problem, it’s a unique experience for each individual.

    Thankfully, a wide variety of over-the-counter products is available to help soothe whatever pain may be ailing your patients. And because these products are not in pill form, there is less chance that patients will experience an unintentional overdose or drug interactions that can lead to potentially dangerous side effects.

    New from Bengay is a Zero Degrees Menthol Pain Relieving Gel with Pro-Cool technology. This stick product can be stored in the freezer (and it’s best to keep it in there for a minimum of 2 hours before use). Once applied to the skin, the effects of its icy-cold sensation can last for hours. The vanishing scent starts to disappear in minutes. This pain reliever soothes the minor aches and pains of muscles and joints associated with simple backache, arthritis, strains, bruises, and sprains.

    The company also offers a Pain Relief + Massage Gel. The no-mess, twist-turn cap applicator allows the user to control the product flow. Five nubs on the applicator massage the product into the skin. Its scent quickly disappears, making it a good product to use discreetly during the day.

    Chattem, a Sanofi company, offers two new IcyHot products, both of which are Advanced Relief formulas. The Pain Relief Cream contains two maximum strength pain relievers, camphor 11% and menthol 16%, for extended relief that can last for hours. This product soothes arthritis, knee, joint, and back pain in addition to body aches and sore muscles. The Pain Relief Patch contains 7.5% menthol and is targeted for the exact point of pain typically associated with muscle strains, sprains, bruises, cramps, and arthritis. The patch is made of a breathable, flexible, no-mess fabric that is easy to apply and remove. A resealable pouch holds four patches, each a little larger than 3” x 5” in size.

    Hisamitsu’s Salonpas Pain Relief Patch and Arthritis Pain Patch are labeled to relieve mild-to-moderate pain associated with arthritis, sprains, strains, and backache. And, according to the company, Salonpas is the only FDA-approved OTC topical pain reliever that provides up to 12 hours of serious relief.

    In addition, the pain-relief patch won a “Best New Product” award from Better Homes and Gardens in 2012, as voted by consumers. The pain reliever, which contains menthol 3% and methyl salicylate 10%, lasts up to 12 hours. Five patches are available in a package and are almost 3” x 4” each in size. Once applied, the patch can be stretched for a smooth and even application.

    The arthritis pain patch offers an alternative to oral pain relief medications: The patch’s medicated ointment is absorbed through the skin and travels directly to the pain site. These patches are also packaged in a set of five and are almost 3” x 4” each in size.

    The company also offers a Pain Relieving Jet Spray, which delivers a highly pressurized jet force of cooling menthol to freeze pain fast, without leaving a greasy feeling or messy drip. The small 4-oz. tube makes it easy and convenient to carry for those who are on the go. A Pain Relieving Massage Foam is also easy to use with its non-drip, quick-drying formula. Patients can hear, feel, and see the product starting to work. They simply spray it onto their fingertips or palm and then massage it into the skin until the crackling sound stops. The scent vanishes quickly but the foam continues to provide up to 8 hours of strong, lasting relief.

    A Pain Relieving Dual-Action Gel Patch combines the sensations of cold and hot for healing relief. The patch’s ointment contains menthol that cools on contact, and then capsaicin (the active ingredient in hot peppers) delivers deep waves of heat to extend pain relief for up to 8 hours. These stretchable patches are targeted to relieve shoulder and upper- and lower-back pain. They are available in two sizes, regular and large, for specific pain areas.

    Although this ingredient in Ocean Pharmaceuticals’ Cobrynol Stage 2 pain reliever may seem a little unconventional, it has been used for centuries — Asian cobra venom. The concept of using the venom as an analgesic dates back to 1936 in the United States; that’s when researchers showed that its effects in minute doses were far superior to the effects of morphine, according to a company statement.

    The product, which is made from the peptide extracts of the venom, is ideal for people who experience persistent pain associated with inflammation and injury, such as joint pain, fibromyalgia, neck and back injuries, migraines, and other chronic conditions. Cobrynol’s all-natural, non-addictive, non-narcotic, non-drowsy formula is easy to use; it’s available as an oral spray or roll-on application.

    Editor’s note: Check out our new CPE series: Pain Management for Pharmacists, which begins this month.

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