Saturday, January 01, 2011

A soothing cup of tea - in more ways than one

I took a fall skiing last week, my skis went in one direction, my knees in the other. The audible pop sounded and felt much like what happens when I break the cartilage in the joint of a chicken. Argh.

Not surprisingly my knee hurts, and ice and ibuprofen are what Patient Spiritual Director calls "ordinary graces" — which I do not disdain.

Sitting in front of the fire with a cup of tea is also good therapy, but it turns out that the tea is more than psychologically soothing.

Adding around 100 mg of caffeine (roughly what's in my big mug of tippy Assam tea) to 400 mg of ibuprofen makes it 2 to 3 times more effective in relieving acute pain. In 1904 Charles Scott Sherrington coined nociceptive to distinguish between the psychological response to an unpleasant stimulus (nociception) and the physiological response (pain). Caffeine enhances the antinociceptive activity of NSAIDS like ibuprofen, but I think it also mitigates the psychological response. I wonder what Prof. Sherrington would make of that!

Full disclosure: I fell in the lift line, my skis got entangled when I tried to retrieve the pole that got stuck in the snow. I'd love to say I did this catching an edge on a glorious powder run.

The chemistry heavy version of this post is here for the truly geeky....


  1. I think you should go with the powder run version.

  2. Yes, well, there are 3 witnesses ready to snarikily tell you the truth, so I may as well come clean from the start....

  3. Anonymous6:35 PM

    You should know better than to endanger your knees, given the DNA donated to you by me! Go titanium!

  4. Anonymous6:37 PM

    oops, that was from me, Dad!

  5. I knew that was you, Dad! Who else do I share DNA with that has Ti knees?? And since I'm afraid they don't make new ones in my size, I'm trying to be nice to the originals!

  6. There should be a running list of ordinary graces-which includes tea.

    [Hope all the mgs relieve some pain.]

  7. For real? I had no idea that tea could provide such a boost to ibuprofen. I'll be keeping that in mind when the next migraine hits.

    Hope your knee is on the mend!

  8. Barb - totally for real, some "migraine" versions of NSAIDs are sold over the counter, and the boost ingredient is caffeine!