Biofreeze® topical analgesic has been shown to provide pain relief in numerous patients, including those with back and neck pain. For almost 20 years, patients and clinicians have relied on its “cryotherapy” effects to manage the pain of arthritis, sprains and strains. Cryotherapy with ice is known to quickly decrease blood flow and is often used for immediate application following an acute injury, or to reduce joint pain after strenuous activity. Ice applications reduce the metabolic demand on injured tissues and help reduce pain. Unfortunately, little has been known about the specific mechanism of action of Biofreeze’s cryotherapy effects.
For those of you who follow our blog, you’ll recall Dr. Robert Topp and his research team at the University of Louisville have done extensive studies on the effects of Biofreeze and ice on blood flow. One of their studies was recently published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. In their study, the researchers applied either ice or Biofreeze gel to the forearms of 12 healthy subjects. They measured the blood flow in the brachial artery before and after each application.
The researchers found a significant (35%) reduction in blood flow within 60 seconds for both the ice and Biofreeze applications. The reduced blood flow continued for at least 10 minutes, after the researchers last measured the subjects. The authors concluded that Biofreeze and ice both have the same effects on reducing blood flow. These findings shed some light on the mechanism of action of Biofreeze topical analgesic and may help us understand how our patients experience the beneficial effects of ice without side effects.
REFERENCE: Olive JL, Hollis B, Mattson E, Topp R. Vascular conductance is reduced after menthol or cold application. Clin J Sport Med. 2010 Sep;20(5):372-6.