• Cheam, Worcester Park and Selsdon, Surrey

Could using Voltarol leave you permanently disabled?

By Michael Walker, Lead Osteopath at Avenue Health

Whilst exercising in my local gym I noticed a large poster advertising Voltarol which encouraged those with aches and pains in their joints and/or muscles to apply the gel to the affected areas, and to then work-out in the gym. Since then, I have seen two television adverts advocating the same practice, one featuring a man dancing vigorously while a voice-over by his wife claimed that he could hardly move due to pain earlier in the day, but that after applying Voltarol he was back to his normal self.

The second advert is similar to the first but featured a male character being thrashed at tennis by his wife. In this advert, the man also claimed that his wife could hardly move that morning due to the pain in her joints and muscles, that is until she applied Voltarol.

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This all sounds marvellous and possibly too good to be true, and as we all know, things that are too good to be true usually are. Pain relieving products can be very useful and help to relieve the discomfort you feel after an injury, but they can also be very dangerous and lead you into a false sense of security.

The pain you are feeling is your body’s way of telling you that you have an injury; preventing the sensation of pain will not cure your injury, but only take away the symptoms. Just imagine you are driving along the motorway in your car and a warning light flashes on your dashboard to alert you to a malfunction if you were to place a piece of card over the dashboard and could no longer see the warning light, do you think this would resolve the problem? The chances are your car would suffer from a serious failure or malfunction further down the road; this is similar to the way pain-relieving drugs work.

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If you engage in physical activity after you have taken these drugs, you may no longer feel the pain that would have prevented you from doing so in the first place, thus risking further injury. In my practice, I find the worst culprits for this are gym users and manual workers, like builders. They often tell me the injury started with severe pain a week or so before and that they have self-medicated with painkilling tablets or creams and, with the pain relievers masking the symptoms, they have then resumed their normal activities. Eventually, the painkillers become less effective; this is usually because the patient’s condition has worsened considerably and not because the painkillers are no longer working.

I’m not against pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs, it is just that they must be used appropriately. If you are sitting at home on the sofa trying to get comfortable or lying in bed trying to get to sleep and pain is preventing you from doing so, taking some pain relief is very useful for improving your quality of life at that moment. You must also bear in mind that all drugs can have side-effects, including digestive problems; some can even affect the performance of other drugs you are taking.

The most important point I would like you to take from this is that you need to treat the injury and not just mask the symptoms. If you are suffering from pain, you should seek a diagnosis from a medical professional (GP, osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist) and take appropriate action to resolve the condition causing the pain before it worsens. Treatment, along with a recovery period is essential for your body to repair itself; without these, injuries can take much longer to recover or, as mentioned above, can become much more serious and in some cases, permanent.

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