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Are Sports Creams Overrated?

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Ben Gay and Icy Hot may provide an intense sensation, but their power as an injury soother is actually very weak, according to a new study review in The Cochrane Library.

The review of 16 clinical trials focused on ingredients found in popular over-the-counter sports rubs. The analyzed ingredients were salicylates, a group of compounds used to ease aches, inflammation and fever. Many familiar rubs, like Aspercreme, Ben Gay and Icy Hot, contain one or more salicylates.

The study’s authors, who say they wouldn’t waste their money on the creams, base that conclusion on the clinical data that included 700 people with acute sports injuries, like sprains and strained muscles, and 579 people in chronic pain—from arthritis or old sports injuries, for instance.

The researchers suggest sticking with prescription topical-NSAIDs as well as rubs containing the hot-pepper compound capsaicin, which have shown decent results in past studies.

"I think there are many other strategies, like massage and water immersion, that may be more effective in dealing with soreness and pain," says Anna Hartman, manager of performance physical therapy for Athletes' Performance.

In terms of relieving common soreness after intense exercise, try using a foam roll (read our foam roll primer) on sore spots, and alternate hot and cold temperatures in your post-workout shower. Both can help increase blood flow and help your body feel better.

About The Author

David Schipper – David began writing for CorePerformance.com in 2008, after spending six years at Men's Health magazine digging up the newest scientific research in health, weight loss, nutrition, muscle and cardiovascular fitness.

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Tags: Neck Pain, Soreness, Shoulder Pain, Injury, Reduce Pain, Knee Pain, Hip Pain, Back Pain