“Don’t blow a gasket but can you rub WD-40 on your knuckles to cure arthritis?”
You know, at this point, few things surprise me anymore. But the idea of using a popular industrial lubricant for joint and arthritis pain is one of the most persistent urban myths I’ve ever tackled.
How widespread is this practice? Judging by the returns of our recent search engine query, it’s not at all uncommon. In fact, it’s so common that WD-40’s British web site contains this warning: “WD-40 is not a medical product. We would never recommend to people that they spray WD-40 onto the skin. Our recommendation is to see your GP for expert advice on alleviating arthritis.”
Even Snopes has tackled this one. What they found won’t surprise a thinking person one bit. When the debunking team at Snopes.com sent a widely-distributed email to the folks at WD-40, a spokesperson quickly debunked nearly half of the “recommended” uses—including the practice of rubbing WD-40 directly into arthritic joints.
“WD-40 Works Because It Contains Fish Oil”
WD-40 does not contain fish oil. WD-40’s “active” ingredients are petroleum distillates and solvents—not fish oil. The idea that WD-40 contains fish oil (another popular “natural” treatment for arthritis) is a complete and utter lie spread to make this absurd practice seem more credible.
Do You Want Petroleum Distillates On Your Skin?
A quick look at WD-40’s Manufacturer Safety Data Sheet reveals that WD-40 contains petroleum distillates that, according to the MSDS, can cause “headache, dizziness, nausea and upper respiratory irritation”. Direct skin contact (like rubbing WD-40 into arthritic joints) may cause “drying of the skin and/or irritation”. As good as this product is for un-sticking nuts and bolts, is it really something you want to put on your skin several times a day?
What Other Experts Say:
Regardless of what bloggers, forum posters and health “writers” claim, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that WD-40 does anything to ease the pain of any type of arthritis. And in preparation for this article we could find NO arthritis organization, research team or support group willing to endorse the use of WD-40 on arthritic joints.
What About The Anecdotal Evidence?
If WD-40 works for some people, I suspect that any relief is the result of what doctors call “counter-irritation”. You see, your brain isn’t very good at focusing on more than one sensation at a time. The act of massaging WD-40 into your joints and the cooling effect from WD-40’s solvents give your brain something to focus on besides the pain of arthritis. It’s also possible that just the act of massaging anything into your joints brings relief for some people. Massage increases blood flow and some arthritis sufferers find massage a valuable tool against pain.
Shame On MY “Natural” Colleagues!
I find it astoundingly hypocritical that the very web sites that claim to be “all natural” are willing to spread such ridiculous lies about a product that doesn’t even come close to being “natural”. Web sites that decry the use of “toxins” like mineral oil are all too quick to jump on WD-40 and its “miracle” cure for arthritis. Bravo! to WD-40 for not encouraging this ridiculous practice and Shame! on my “natural” peers who do.