At every indoor meet, I still remember vividly the scent of Ben-Gay in the locker rooms. Now combine that smell of muscle rub ointment, sweat and the musty locker room, and you can guarantee that rancid combination is a smell you’ll never forget.
Depending on your country, famous brands other than Ben-Gay (recently changed to Bengay) are Rub A535 (also known as Antiphlogistine), Icy Hot and Radian B come to mind.
Muscle Pain Rub vs. Heat Rub
The first thing to differentiate is a Muscle Pain Rub vs. Heat Rub
I like to use Rub On Relief for muscle pain and soreness, and Finalgon (from New Zealand) for a heat rub. More on the later.
Ben-Gay or A-535 are common OTC creams and ointments that have analgesic properties..
CAUTION: Most Muscle Pain Rubs sports creams that are sold over-the-counter contain methyl salicylate. People who are allergic to salicylates, or ASA based drugs such as Aspirin, should avoid using these products.
But lets not confuse two different functions. That is, warming up the legs, and treating sore muscles. Though most athletes I know use a “one cream fits all”.
Sprinters would apply the cream to their hamstrings, calves, and thighs to "keep it warm and prevent pulling or cramping".
That being said, you have to understand when and where to use "Heat and Cold"
- Cold is a must to reduce inflammation or swelling or injury.
- Heat helps in aiding circulation.
In a pinch, I use the traditional Tiger Balm Ultra Sports Rub which is a combination of special oils… Cassia oil as the active ingredient for pain relief, and menthol and camphor as the warming ingredient by assisting in vasodilatation. More recently, eucalyptus oil has been added to the compound. (It was like the Old Coke/New Coke change in formulation. I liked the old formula better.)
Ironically, topical vasodilatation, or vasodilatation of the skin, causes the blood vessels at the skin to release heat, which gives it a warm feeling. But then you are losing heat! It’s like giving alcohol to a cold person. You feel warm, but in essence you are actually losing heat usually though your head.
Of course, there’s the story of the "Atomic Balm". Decades ago, a Canadian team masseur told a stewardess he had an "atomic bomb" in his carry-on bag. He was promptly kicked off the airline with no refund in his airfare.
If you have access to a New Zealander, ask them to bring you back Finalgon for a heat rub.
Speaking of Finalgon, there are two types: Cream and ointment. The ointment is much stronger than the cream version and you should "cut it" with regular cream. Never use at full strength. If you apply the ointment by accident, and it becomes burning hot, DON’T take a hot shower to wash it off as it will just open up your pores and make it worse. Stories of Canadian hurdler Mark McKoy come to mind.
Homeopathic Solutions for Treating Sore Muscles
The beauty of Arnica is that it comes in a gel or cream, as well as pill format that you can swallow.
Arnica montana (not to be confused with TV celeb Hannah Montana) is the full name, and some of its common names include leopard’s bane, wolf’s bane, and mountain tobacco.
Arnica montana is a perennial plant with bright yellow, daisy-like flowers which can only be found in high altitudes. The plant is native to Europe and southern Russia, as well as North America.
How does Arnica montana work?
It contains active components called “sesquiterpene lactones” or SL for short and is known to reduce inflammation and decrease pain
In one double-blind trial, Arnica montana was found to be equally effective as the more expensive Diclofenac for accelerating wound healing after foot surgery, but was less effective than the same drug for pain relief.
I have used Diclofenac in the past for my Achilles Tendonitis injuries with success, though it depended on the severity of the injury.
CAUTION: Diclofenac is usually prescribed as a compound mixture, so it’s mixed with egg albumin, which shouldn’t be a problem, unless you’re allergic to eggs.
Traumeel is another homeopathic topical cream you can use, which ironically I buy at
Whole Pay Check Whole Foods.
Oral Supplements for Treating Sore Muscles
To assist in Muscle soreness, here are some common remedies & supplements that one can take orally:
- additional Protein
- Glutamine (no more than 5 grams at time)
- Vitamin C (supplements or food sources such as strawberries and oranges)
- Magnesium (also part of ZMA)
The Arnica plant should never be taken internally due to its toxicity, but homeopathic preparations are safe. That’s because the Arnica montana plant contains the toxin helenalin, which may be poisonous in large amounts. What isn’t poisonous in super large quantities?
If you’re looking for a homeopathic remedy to take internally, try InflammaGo The main ingredients are Arnica, Bryonia, and Rhus Toxicodendron.
NOTE: Bryonia, and Rhus Toxicodendron are the active ingredients in Rub On Relief.