Recent studies have shown that Biofreeze® topical analgesic can reduce pain in patients with neck (Bishop et al. 2011, Bishop et al. 2012) and back pain (Zhang et al. 2008, Greenstein et al. 2012). Researchers in Louisville KY studied the effects of Biofreeze on patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Their results were published ahead of print last month in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 20 knee arthritis patients performed 5 functional tasks with Biofreeze or a placebo gel on separate days. The researchers recorded changes in performance and pain with each functional task in both conditions. The subjects performed the following functional tasks:
- 6 minute walk
- Timed Up and Go
- Timed Chair Stand
- Up Stairs
- Down Stairs
Biofreeze significantly decreased pain in 4 of 5 functional tasks, whereas the placebo did not reduce pain in any of the functional tasks. Also, applying Biofreeze to the arthritic knee resulted in improved performance in 3 out of 5 functional tasks, whereas the placebo improved only 1 of 5 functional tasks. Statistically, there were no significant differences between the Biofreeze and placebo in pain or performance; however, according to the researchers, “The declines in pain during the functional tasks appear to be clinically significant ranging from 27% to 37% decline in pain following the application” of Biofreeze.
Menthol, the active ingredient in Biofreeze, is thought to reduce pain through biochemical mechanisms by stimulating cold receptors. The study’s authors concluded, “Using topical menthol to compliment standard pharmacological treatment of knee OA may contribute to enhanced pain relief and improve functional ability, particularly during pain-evoking activities.”
REFERENCE: Topp R, Brosky JA Jr, Pieschel D. The Effect of Either Topical Menthol or a Placebo on Functioning and Knee Pain Among Patients With Knee OA. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2012 Sep 12. [Epub ahead of print]
Disclosure: This project was supported by a grant from Performance Health Inc.