Eye of Newt, Toe of Frog, Balm of Tiger

by wjw on February 24, 2015

k2-_b58a1acb-304d-4a0b-929f-34b37ef87feb.v1I am feeling particularly yeasty at the moment, because I’ve actually had a good night’s sleep, followed by a long, peaceful nap.

This hasn’t happened lately.

Something like two-and-a-half years ago, I woke sleeping on my left side, with my left arm pinned under me.   This resulted in a good deal of left shoulder pain, which for some reason shifted over to the dominant right shoulder even though I hadn’t slept on it.  Some deep-tissue massage at the hands of the former masseuse for the Green Bay Packers pretty much settled this problem, until a few months later I spent a week on a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef, when massive pain in both shoulders came leaping at me like a Great White Shark.

This continued long after I got home, until I was reminded me that a doctor, who I had consulted for something else entirely, had recently put me on a statin drug, and that the side effects of statin drugs include muscle pain, muscle damage, liver damage, diabetes, and cataracts.  (Hey, I got two of those!)  People like me, without actual heart disease, really need to stay away from the statin drugs.  (I was aware when being prescribed the stuff that the reasons for the prescription amounted to superstitious nonsense, no more effective than banging sticks together or chanting at the moon, but my insurance company paid for it, so I thought what the hell.)

Anyway, I went off the statin drug and the pain from the left shoulder went away entirely, and the right was reduced to manageable levels with the help of deep-tissue massage— Green Bay’s finest masseuse had returned to Wisconsin, but I found someone else who is really very good.

And so this went for a couple years, until I finally got tired of the whole business and got my MD to recommend a physician who specialized in arm-and-shoulder problems (didn’t know they had those), and after X-rays and other investigations he concluded that I suffered from an inflamed rotator cuff.  (“What inflamed it?” I asked.  “No idea,” he said.)  So he gave me a couple cortisone shots, and it was as if a dam broke— the pain just kinda poured out of the right shoulder . . . and into the left.  So now the left shoulder, which had been quiescent for many months, was suddenly inflamed, and the right shoulder was fine.

Now around this time I got one of those back massager pillows, the kind you put on your chair and lean against,  and put it to good use against my left shoulder.  The effect was similar to having one of Green Bay’s 280-pound linemen grind his massive knuckles into my muscle tissue, but it succeeded in getting the problem to move again.

Now the pain shifted to my upper arms and the front of my shoulders, where it hadn’t been before.  It was like squeezing a bean bag and seeing the beans run from one place to the next. except that in this case the beans carried pain with them.  And with the pain in the front, there was no way of using the massage pillow.

The pain wasn’t really bad unless I was lying down.  There was no comfortable position, there was always upper arm pain no matter how I arranged myself on the bed.  Which meant that I didn’t sleep well.

Till last night.  I was out of town without the massage pillow, and I thought to take along some of Aunt Dolores’ Tiger Balm that we’d got from her apartment after she passed away, and I applied the Tiger Balm just before bed.

And the pain went away.  Within seconds, I mean the camphor didn’t even have a chance to start its heating process.   The pain stayed away all night, and I got the first good night’s sleep in I don’t know how long.  In a hotel bed, too!  And when I got home I took a nap in my easy chair, and it was the most restful sleep I’ve had in I don’t know how long.

(I used to use Tiger Balm for muscle aches, but the Chinese market where I bought it went out of business, and I never replaced the last jar when it ran dry.  I will not make that mistake again.)

And now I feel great!  My brain seems to be functioning better than it has in a good while, and my body has energy, and it seems that my vim reservoir has been completely topped up!

Whatever weird Chinese juju is in those little jars really does the job!  (And it really shouldn’t have, because it’s a topical ointment, and it shouldn’t have been able to even reach the rotator cuff.)  And now I keep thinking, two years of pain and doctors and massage and cortisone shots, and all I needed was Tiger Balm!  How strange is that?

So here, Tiger Balm, is my unsolicited endorsement.

And as for me, I think I’ll go back to bed.

Allison Stein February 25, 2015 at 4:25 am

Glad to hear you found relief with such a simple solution. I’m fighting a lon-term battle with shoulder pain from a pinched nerve. Massage and ergonomics are Very Good Things.

Tim Simoulis February 25, 2015 at 4:39 am

Never underestimate the value of folk medicine. Tiger Balm is great I’ve used it for a long time.
I make my own herbal “goop” that has cured my rosacia, kept my boyish good looks and gotten rid of those brown spots on my hands. Not only that it’s better that any store bought antiseptic. It doesn’t do anything for muscles though…sorry.
Sometimes what is considered superstitious is actually very effective. My neurologist now offers acupuncture in his practice. That is a giant step.

Chris Mills February 25, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Tiger Balm is wonderful stuff. You may find benefit from turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. It is apparently good for a few things beyond making curry. YMMV but I have used it for years to keep gout away (used in combination with celery seed extract).

wjw February 26, 2015 at 5:49 am

I eat turmeric, but only with food. And Tim, what worked for your rosacia? I’ve had an infection on my nose for years that makes me look like I drink a lot more than I do.

Shash March 1, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I’ve never tried Tiger Balm. I’ll have to give it a go. For years, I used ibuprofen gel, stocking up on trips to the UK, but I’ve found it that massage works as well for anything but swelling.

I, too, am interested in Tim’s rosacia goop. I’ve tried a lot of stuff for mine and none is a long term fix that doesn’t cause other skin issues.

Andrew Horace Glenn November 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Tiger Balm triggers processes in the body that accelerate nature’s natural healing. Mechanically it blocks the pain receptors but it works on the chi system as well.I believe it relaxes what I call the “trauma shield” that sets in to protect the area. Once it relaxes nature’s chi takes over.

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