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Got pain? Get rust for relief, says BYU professor

If you're in pain, you might have cause to be thankful for ordinary rust, according to recent research conducted by a Brigham Young University physical education professor.

David Draper's study compared pain-relieving heat-producing wraps, such as ThermaCare made by Procter and Gamble, which utilizes the rusting process to produce heat raising the muscle temperature three to four degrees for as long as eight hours.

The secret of products like ThermaCare is a series of small discs housed in a paper wrapping placed in a plastic container. The discs contain iron, salt and charcoal that rust when exposed to oxygen, producing heat that can penetrate the muscle up to an inch.

Draper compared five heat-producing products for their effectiveness in relieving muscle pain. By inserting a needle with a sensor attached several inches deep in a subject's muscle, he was able to measure temperature increase and depth in the muscle.

Products using plant derivatives raise muscle temperature only a half-degree, and menthol-based products actually dropped muscle temperature overall, thrusting the rust process to the top of the pain-relief heap.

Heat alleviates pain by reducing pressure on nerve endings and by bringing blood to the area, which washes away pain-causing chemicals and brings nutrients to facilitate quick healing.

"Heat is an effective source of pain relief for all kinds of muscle aches, from acute trauma to general fatigue," says Draper.

While some professional and collegiate sports teams already use heat-producing wraps to relieve pain, it has not yet been widely adopted in the consumer world.

"Heat wraps are convenient, effective and portable enough that I think we'll see much wider usage of them in the future," says Draper.

Draper, of the College of Health and Human Performance, has studied heat modalities for more than 14 years. He has discussed his latest research on "Good Things Utah" and "Good Morning Utah" on KTVX-TV, and will also be interviewed by KSL-TV.

The recipient of many grants, both private and governmental, Draper plans to continue his research on heat modalities.

Writer: Craig Kartchner

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