Saturday, December 8, 2007

Stress, Holidays, Pain and Chili Peppers?

It is the Holiday season and stress levels are on the rise! Just remember that for all you gym rats, that ANY stress has an effect on the body and it is not just the added stress on your body from the gym. The term eustress and distress defined by Webster’s dictionary as

eustress (noun) : Stress that affects your body in a positive fashion.

Distress is the opposite.

Distress (noun): pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind

In training, it may not be beneficial to have every session perceived as distress, but without the principal of overload the body has no reason to adapt; so it is a fine balancing act. It was rumored that trees planted in the first Biosphere experiment did not grow straight up since there was no wind!

Take Away
Monitor your training progress based on if it was a eustress or distress session and see how it goes. I would be interested in your feedback. Special thanks to Zachariah Salazar for the "new to me" definition of stress.

I am a Kiteboarding Adict!
I just got back from another kiteboarding session in S Padre TX this past Sunday through Wensday and it was great! Only one day out of 3 with nice wind, but that day of riding made the entire trip worthwhile! I even caught some air for about 3-4 seconds on purpose this time. Wow, that is an amazing feeling of being lifted up off the water as everything goes dead quiet and if you do it right, you can even land softly (or in my case cannonball into the water 6o% of the time). If you have not checked out the book "The Four Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferris, I highly highly recommend it. I have no plans to ever really retire, so I might as well enjoy everything to its fullest extent now and not put it off.

Super Geek Alert: Study on Pain Physiology
I have tons of cool studies coming up, but I need to get through my finals first and only 8 more days to go. Whoo ha. The of this quarter is drawing near.

From some work published in Nautre (1), scientist are working on combining two compounds to elicit a very cool effect on reduction of pain! Most agents used for acute pain reduction like lidocaine (think of the dentist if you have ever had any work done there), result in numbness and a general lack of feeling including a loss of motor control--try drinking that crappy Kool Aid they give you after you get your wisdom teeth pulled. I think the dentist just does it for entertainment as I know I spilled mine all over myself.

In the experiment (1), they combined the effects of capsician (that stuff that turns your mouth to fire from hot chili peppers) with a local anesthetic (QX-314 which is in the lidocaine family). This worked to shut up (technical term) the local pain sensations (nociception) without affecting the motor control qualities (hey, I can sill move).

Capsaicin binds to TRPV1 and causes the protein to open a gate leading to a small channel in the nerve cell's membrane. So researchers scratched their heads and thought maybe injecting capsaicin followed by QX-314 would allow the chili pepper compound to open the doors of pain-sensing neurons, clearing the way for the anesthetic to enter and shut down the cells; and it did! (2)

For all the geeks out there, capsaicin, as a member of the vanilloid family, binds to a receptor called the vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (VR1). When the neuron is stimulated it sends a signal to the brain (remember, that is where pain lives). Anything that binds to the VR1 receptor can produce the same sensation that excessive heat or abrasive damage would cause, thus explaining why the spiciness of capsaicin is described as a burning sensation.

Why You Might Care
Alexander M. Binshtok et al (1), stated “Long-lasting decreases in pain sensitivity were also seen with regional injection of QX-314 and capsaicin near the sciatic nerve; however, in contrast to the effect of lidocaine, the application of QX-314 and capsaicin together was not accompanied by motor or tactile deficits.” Translation—the pain signal was shut down, but there were no other deleterious (bad) effects!


1. Binshtok A. M., B. P. Bean, C. J. Woolf. Inhibition of nociceptors by TRPV1-mediated entry of impermeant sodium channel blockers. Nature. 449(7162):607-610, 2007.