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Muscle rubs/creams


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Hello all,

I was just hoping someone with more "useless knowledge" than myself could help me out with this one. I recently have been having some mysterious hamstring pain and my roommate suggested that I try a Ben-Gay type of product on it before I go to bed. I have used it for two nights and was wondering how exactly these products are designed to work. The ingredients (Methyl Salicylate 30%, Menthol 10%, Camphor 4%) seem to cause some heating sensation, but the area is not warm to the touch. Am I just feeling a chemical reaction? And also, is there any benefit to using these products? :shrug:

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Methyl Salicylate reacts with skin tissue to create the sensation of heat. There really is no heat in the muscle or joint, but your brain thinks there is.


Products like that often make you feel better, but don’t really heal injury directly, other than by reducing pain modestly.


Long ago when I was involved in competitive athletics we used to paint sore muscles and joints with a liquid heat product immediately before training. The product had the most methyl salicylate you could buy over the counter. There was a specific warning on the package not to cover that area of the skin were you applied the product. We ignored that and wrapped the muscle or joint with an Ace bandage too. Once we got to sweating a little, you perceived major heat. Felt great. Of course you could smell us miles away too. And when we unwrapped our Ace bandages, our skin looked as if it were severely sunburn. But I swear it worked in the sense that we could train and essentially not feel the pain from what I will call moderate injury.


I wouldn’t try this right off the get go. I’m sure it took me months or years to build up. Skin seems to accommodate to methyl salicylate so you need more and more (and perhaps a bandage) to get the sensation of heat.


To heal an injury, for simple home remedies, it is best to alternate real heat and cold on the affected area in the evening.

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Usually the instructions for these types of creams have you massage or rub the cream onto the sore area... the process of application probably does more good than the cream itself!

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Thanks for all of the help, I think I would have been better off buying some ice packs! Just as a side question, if I do in fact have a hamstring pull (though I am clueless as to how I would have gotten it), would ice or heat be most advisable? Thoughout my soccer/track days it was ice, now my chiropractor uses heat so I am a bit confused. :flowers:

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As a general rule, during the acute phase of an injury, which is usually understood as the first seventy-two hours after the event, use ice only, in order to minimize inflammation and the pain it causes. After that period, you may apply heat immediately following the cold for additional pain-killing effect and to effect blood circulation through the affected area and speed healing.

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My chiro uses estim and massage for muscular injuries, then tells me to ice and self-massage. I've got pain in both the hamstring and psoas on the same leg. Psoas massage is NO FUN at all. big time ouch.

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The psoas attaches to the side and towards the front of the twelfth thoracic vertebra and each of the five lumbar vertebrae. It moves through the pelvic girdle and inserts along with the iliacus (a fan-shaped muscle lining the inside of the pelvic bowl) in a common tendon at the lesser trochanter of the femur (the thigh bone near the groin area). The psoas and iliacus combine to form a muscle group called the iliopsoas.

    To locate your psoas imagine peeling the layers of your body like an onion. The first layer is your skin. Next, the abdominal muscles in front and lumbar muscles at the back. The large intestines come next and another layer of back muscles. Below this level are the small intestine, the reproductive organs, abdominal nerve ganglia and major arteries. From behind the deepest of organs the kidneys rest on and to the side of the psoas. In the centre of your skeletal core is your psoas muscle


Now realize that the only way to reach this muscle is from the FRONT of your body. You basically have to run your hand along the pelvis and get behind the intestines. :rolleyes: It's your hip flexor and it's a strong, tough, muscle, so massage would probably be tough without the added bonus of it's position in the body.


This muscle needs a professional's expertise to get to but is often the culprit behind many problems including low back pain, hip pain, etc... My nagging hamstring pain has disappeared from work onthis muscle while massage of the hamstring itself was useless.

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  • 1 month later...

Lampwick, I imagine you have, but have you tried strengthening exercises for your psoas as well? Just in case your psoas is weak (I have no idea if this is the case for you), here is one exercise from a modern class for the psoas...


Lie on your back, arms in second position, feet flexed, legs turned out (first position on the floor).

Pull both legs up so that knees are bent and toes are touching, knees are bent to look like the shape of a diamond.

Straighten both legs so that legs are in a straddle split.

Shift weight over to the right hip, allowing the right leg to touch the floor and the left left forms a 90 degree angle with the right leg.

Flex and turn out left leg and slowly lower it to right leg.

*I am not sure if during this last movement right leg should be flexed or pointed.

Slowly raise left leg back to 90 degree angle to right leg, still flexed.

Slowly shift weight from right hip to both hips, and legs are back in a straddle, feet are pointed.

Repeat with left hip.

Bend knees to form diamond shape with legs, then extend/straighten legs back to first position lying down on the floor.


Back to the original topic of this thread--if my back is sore or my leg or whatever, I ice it, and put Icy Hot on it, go to sleep, and sometimes wake up in the morning with the soreness gone. I thought that these type of cremes relaxed the muscle or at least helped the soreness go away? Is this not the case?

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