Topical analgesics such as Biofreeze® are frequently used to reduce muscle pain. The main ingredient in Biofreeze, menthol, is thought to reduce pain through a counter-irritant mechanism and through stimulation of cold receptors. (Watch a video of that explains the mechanism of Biofreeze here). Previous research has shown that compared to ice, Biofreeze topical analgesic results in similar decreases in blood flow (Olive et al. 2010) and greater pain relief in patients with neck pain (Bishop et al. in press).
Thera-Band Academy Scientific Advisory Committee member Dr. David Behm of Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada compared Biofreeze to ice in terms of its ability to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and increase muscle force production. He presented his results at the 2011 TRAC meeting in San Francisco. Two groups, each with 8 subjects, had DOMS induced in their non-dominant biceps. Two days later, either ice or Biofreeze was applied to their sore biceps. Subjects were asked to rate their pain perception and muscle function was measured with maximal voluntary contraction and tetanic force using electrical stimulation.
Biofreeze resulted in significantly less pain compared to ice, causing a 63% reduction in pain perception. While there was no significant difference between Biofreeze and ice on strength, tetanic force was over 100% higher with Biofreeze compared to ice. Dr. Behm suggested that the reduction in pain perception using Biofreeze allowed the subjects to withstand more pain associated with the tetanic force test. His results support previous research finding that Biofreeze is better than ice at reducing pain.
Read the abstract of his study here: A topical menthol analgesic is more effective than ice for decreasing DOMS-induced pain and increasing titanic force
Listen to a podcast interview with Dr. Behm about his project by clicking on the link below: