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A Guide to Medicated Plasters in Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Do You Know How to Choose Medicated Plasters for Pain Relief? A Guide to Medicated Plasters in Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine 

by  Dr. 蔡育霖

In Taiwan, medicated plasters are second only to oral anti-inflammatory medicine in terms of the number of people using them to relieve muscle and bone pain. Medicated plasters are commonly prescribed at pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics. At the hospital, a medical professional can help you determine if you should use a medicated plaster, and if so, which kind. Do you know how to choose on your own when purchasing them?  This article will introduce the principles of plaster usage as well as selection methods in Western and Traditional Chinese medicine. The next article will introduce details about the ingredients in Western plasters, Traditional Chinese medicine plasters, and external creams. Principles of Western and Traditional Chinese Medicated Plasters and External Creams

  1. Medicated plasters contain anti-inflammatories, so take note of your usage. Regardless of whether you're using plasters, rubs, or sprays, only apply one type of medicine at a time to avoid overdosing. In addition, avoid using on large areas. Using more than two plasters on one body part in the same day is not recommended.

  2. Don't use medicated plasters on areas where you have wounds.

  3. If your skin breaks out in an allergic rash after use, stop using and consult your doctor right away.

  4. The pain relief ingredients in the plaster are absorbed through the skin. As skin is prone to redness, swelling, and itching when not exposed to air, prolonged use is not recommended.

  5. If your pain symptoms have been relieved, stop using medicated plasters to avoid becoming dependent.

  6. Children and pregnant women should consult their doctor before using medicated plasters and should use Western medicine plasters with simpler ingredients to lower the risk of side effects.

  7. Remember to check that the medicated plasters you are purchasing are legal and up to standard!

Medicated Plasters in Western Medicine: Choose Based on Pain Type In broad terms, medicated plasters rely on NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to provide relief for pain and inflammation. If your pain is caused by soreness or inflammation, anti-inflammatory pain relief will have better results. This includes muscle strains, contusions, or injuries from a fall. If it is a new injury with light symptoms, you can purchase medicated plasters on your own to take care of it. If your back is sore due to prolonged sitting, or you suffer from psychogenic pain or long-term neck soreness, medicated plasters may not be as effective, because these pains are not caused by inflammation. For chronic pain issues, we recommend that you change your lifestyle habits, stretch, and exercise regularly. If your condition is serious, seek the help of a physical therapist specializing in chronic pain or a pain management doctor. Generally, medicated plasters in Western medicine are suitable for acute pain.  Materials Used in Medicated Plasters Oil-based plasters are thinner and stickier, but they are more likely to cause allergic reactions due to the usage of organic solvents. Water-based plasters are thicker and less sticky, so they fall off more easily, but they are also less likely to cause allergic reactions.

How to Choose Medicated Plasters and External Creams Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine Medicated plasters and external creams in Traditional Chinese medicine are categorized according to early or late stage injuries similar to Western medicine.  The difference is that in Traditional Chinese medicine, there are plasters and external creams available for each stage of injury or pain, and they use different ingredients to achieve different results. The principles of treatment are based on the holistic diagnosis and treatment method used in Traditional Chinese medicine, which simultaneously treats the issue internally and externally. Out of respect for Traditional Chinese medicine's usage and context, the following introduction is mostly unedited.    Early Stages of a New Injury (1-2 weeks): At this stage, injuries to sinew, bones, and veins have led to blood stagnation in the affected channel; accumulation of stasis, blood,qi ; and meridian blockage. Thus, the primary treatment method is to promote qi flow to remove stasis and swelling and release pain. In this stage, "cooling patches" containing wintergreen oil and menthol are the best treatment choices. Wintergreen oil contains salicylate, which provides relief for inflammation and pain; menthol stimulates the central nervous system, causing the skin's pores and blood vessels to expand. This causes sweating, which has clearing heat and pain relief effects. External creams may include Sanhuang, Xiao Yan Tong Gao, or medicated and water-based plasters; when red heat symptoms are present, Sihuang San or Qingying edema cream may be used for their stronger heat-clearing properties. If swelling and pain are not serious, or swelling has already begun to recede, creams to relax muscles and stimulate circulation such as Wanhua oil, herbal balm, or anisette may be used.  Late Stage Injuries: At this point, stasis and swelling have receded, bruises have yellowed, and pain and dysfunction are gradually improving. Full recovery can be expected in 3-5 weeks. Late stages of a new injury, old injuries, and long-term pain are more suitably treated by warming channels to promote qi circulation, such as using heating plasters. In addition to wintergreen oil, these plasters contain capsaicin, aconite root, and drynaria fortunei (gu sui bu), causing a heating sensation on the skin after applying. External creams include Baozhen or Wanying creams; injury baths, Baxian Xiaoyao soup, or erythrina bark (haitongpi) soup may be used to steam and wash extremities. It is important to remember that the ingredients in Chinese medicated plasters and external creams are relatively more complex. Children and pregnant women are recommended to consult with their doctor or pharmacist before using medicated plasters or to choose Western plasters with simpler ingredients.  A Review of Keys to Purchasing and Using Medicated Plasters:

  1. Western medicated plasters are suitable for acute injuries and pain. They are not effective for old injuries or chronic pain.

  2. Oil-based plasters are thinner and stickier, but they are more likely to cause allergies. Water-based plasters are thicker and less sticky, but they are less likely to cause allergies.

  3. In Traditional Chinese medicine, cooling plasters are best suited for early-stage new injuries, and heating plasters are best for late-stage new injuries, old injuries, and chronic pain.

  4. Only apply one type of plaster at a time, and don't use on a large area. Do not use more than two plasters on the same body part in one day.

  5. If you experience skin discomfort, discontinue use immediately and consult your doctor.

  6. Do not use plasters for too long; as soon as your condition improves, stop using pain relief plasters.

  7. Children and pregnant women should consult their doctor before using plasters.

  8. Only buy up to standard, legal medicated plasters.

Please be careful when selecting medicated plasters. Making the wrong choice and wasting a bit of money is nothing, but overdose, redness and swelling, allergic reactions, and use of illegal products could be serious.

Retrieved from: 好痛痛 - 復健科、骨科、物理治療醫療資訊

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