Your patients are no stranger to delayed onset muscle soreness, or “DOMS”. Whether they are rehabilitating an injury or completing workouts of their own, pain is an inevitable side effect of being active. This pain can adversely affect muscle function by inhibiting muscle contractions, which can theoretically be thwarted by the application of cryotherapy, which is consistently prescribed by physical therapists, athletic trainers and chiropractors alike. But what type of cryotherapy should you be recommending? Years ago, researchers set out to answer this question by questioning whether topical menthol-based analgesics or ice was “more effective at reducing pain and permitting greater muscular voluntary and evoked force” (Johar et al. 2012).
The fight for DOMS pain relief
Sixteen subjects performed an exercise used to fatigue the elbow and provoke DOMS. Two days later, they were chosen to receive either Biofreeze® topical menthol gel or an application of ice to the elbow flexors. Measurements were taken after 20, 25, and 35 minutes, recording:
- Maximum voluntary contractions
- Evoked tetanic contractions
- Pain perception
Results showed that delayed onset muscle soreness decreased voluntary force 17.1% at 20 minutes with no treatment, while tetanic force was 116.9% higher with the topical analgesic than ice. Also at 20 minutes, pain was significantly less in the Biofreeze group.
This isn’t the first time Biofreeze has beaten ice when compared head to head. In a 2011 study, Biofreeze out-performed ice in categories like pain relief, comfort, durability and overall preference. To further compliment these results, Dr. Michael Rogers of Wichita State University completed a study this year determining just how long the effects of Biofreeze last in relation to DOMS. Pair these results and you’ve got all the proof you need; topical menthol analgesics like Biofreeze decrease perceived pain to a greater degree than ice.
Johar et al. 2012. A comparison of topical menthol to ice on pain, evoked tetanic and voluntary force during delayed onset muscle soreness. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 7(3):314-22.