Just when you think you've heard it all: WD-40 for aches?

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com
Local coaching legend Buck VanHuss carried a can in his golf bag to help loosen his elbows and wrists. Hampton's Coach Jerry White said he, too, takes along a can when he golfs.
And George Straznitskas, who qualified for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials at the age of 36, regularly sprayed his knees with it.
My husband -- one of those traveling macho ironworkers -- returned home in May to find me hobbling around the house, griping about how my back, leg and hip ached. May was a soggy month. I'm not as young as I once was.
"I was talking to some of the old ironworkers on this last job, and they told me about something that will take care of the pain," he said. Off to Brown's Supermarket in Hampton we went. In typical male fashion, he made a bee-line to the hardware department and stayed there for a small eternity. I got tired of waiting and went to check out.
Jean White, Coach White's wife, was the cashier on duty. She was ringing up the last of my items and listening to me fuss about how slow husbands are, when he showed up behind me and plopped a box of .38 caliber shells and a can of WD-40 on the checkout counter.
I looked at Jean skeptically. When a man tells you he's got a remedy that will "either cure you or kill you," and then buys a box of ammunition, you kind of pause to think a moment. "Naw, you first," you think.
"My husband has lost his mind," I told Jean. "He says he's going to rub WD-40 on me and my hip will quit hurting."
"Why, Jerry White swears by WD-40!" Jean said. "And Jerry said Buck VanHuss used it all the time."
That was good enough for me.
The makers of WD-40 do not endorse use of their product on humans. Use of WD-40 for anything other than its intended purpose is strictly at one's own risk.
According to the manufacturer, WD-40 ("Water Displacement") stops squeaks, cleans and protects, loosens rusted parts, and frees sticky mechanisms, to name just a few. Well, my bones were squeaking and some parts were obviously stuck.
Back at home, my husband demonstrated the miracle of WD-40. He turned his wrist back and forth. "Listen to this ..." he said. His wrist made loud popping sounds with each twist.
He sprayed it with WD-40 and began to wiggle his wrist back and forth. It quieted down.
"OK, I'm sold," I told him. "Let 'er rip."
In just a few moments, I was once again walking erect rather than limping along. "It's a miracle!" I proclaimed.
But it really did give temporary relief.
I was like a person who had just found the Lord. Anybody that hurt, I wanted to squirt 'em with WD-40 and tell them about this "miracle." A couple of co-workers tried it, and gave their testimony. One uses it on her knees, the other on her back.
I called Coach White to get his opinion on WD-40. "It's got a penetrating effect. That's all you've got to do, is grease your joints. What happens when you get sore in your joints, your bones are rubbing together and you don't have enough fluid in them.
"A lot of golfers use to carry it in their golf bag and I have used it on my elbows some. It seems to help," he said. But it's for personal use only. He does not recommend it to his ball players.
Coach White also gave me the scoop on yet another well-known product.
"... like duct tape taking care of warts. Put it on there and leave it about a week or so, and they say they will leave. It was in the news here a while back," White said.
Now the rest of the world knows what we hillbillies have known all along: No home should be without duct tape and WD-40.
I started looking on the Internet to see if other people had heard about this WD -- "Water Displacement" -- wonder.
John C. Wolfe, D.O., who writes a Family Medicinereg. Column, says to use WD-40 to lubricate metal parts, not arthritic joints.
A reader had watched co-workers spray WD-40 on their elbows and other places to relieve sore, aching symptoms. The reader wondered if it meant that WD-40 penetrated the skin and, if so, was it a health threat or possible carcinogen.
"As has happened with many common products, people try them in ways that the manufacturer never intended," Dr. Wolfe said. "In the case of WD-40, a great myth developed about its benefits in treating arthritis."
While it is easy to believe that because WD-40 works wonders on stiff door locks, squeaky hinges, and rusted bolts, it is not true when it comes to repairing arthritis, Wolfe says.
WD-40 is a petroleum-based product that has the potential to be absorbed through the skin. "The more that is on you and the longer it is on you -- the greater the amount absorbed," he said. Likewise, your neck is going to absorb more than your feet will because the skin on your feet is thicker.
The doctor also said that while most people have no reaction, "problems ranging from mild skin rashes to significant allergic reactions have occurred."
The more serious exposure comes from breathing the vapor, he said. "Do what the manufacturer recommends: Use it to lubricate and clean, but try to keep it off your skin."
According to research presented by health professionals from the Association of Rheumatology, 346 rheumatoid arthritis patients from North Carolina were polled to determine whether they had ever used one of 150 common "self-management practices and resources," ranging from taking medications to using home remedies.
"When asked about lotions, oils and liniments, 69 percent reported using a lotion such as Ben-Gay, and more than 10 percent reported using WD-40."