Icy Hot versus Bengay?

On May 2, 2012, in Alternative Medicine, Wellness, by Kelly Golob DC

There are dozens of different pain relieving creams, gels, and ointments available in drug stores and doctors offices everywhere.  And they all claim to be more effective than the other “leading brands”.  But which one works the best for muscle soreness and trigger points that make up the most common consumer complaints?

A new study published this month compared the effectiveness of 5 of the most popular over-the-counter topical pain relievers for neck and shoulder muscle pain.  The products studied in this experiment were: Bengay Ultra Strength Muscle Pain ointment, Professional Therapy MuscleCare Roll-on, Motion Medicine cream, Icy Hot Extra Strength Cream, and Biofreeze Roll-on gel.  All of which, were also compared to a placebo ointment with no medicinal properties.

In this study, 120 people had painful trigger points located in their upper trapezius muscle.  Range of motion and pressure sensitivity measurements were taken before a mystery pain reliever (one of the six) was applied their muscle.  Approximately 10 minutes later, new measurements were taken to see if any improvements had occurred.

The results of this study found that the only pain relievers significantly better than placebo at decreasing pain were Bengay Ultra Strength Muscle Pain ointment and Professional Therapy MuscleCare Roll-on.  Additionally, only the Professional Therapy MuscleCare Roll-on had statistically significant advantages over the Icy Hot Extra Strength Cream.

 Therefore, this study concludes that Bengay Ultra Strength Muscle Pain ointment is more effective than Icy Hot Extra Strength Cream, but Professional Therapy MuscleCare Roll-on outperformed them all.         


  1. Avrahami D, Hammond A, Higgins C, Vernon H. A randomized, placebo-controlled double-blinded comparative clinical study of five over-the-counter non-pharmacological topical analgesics for myofascial pain: single session findings. Chiropr Man Therap. 2012 Mar 21;20:7.

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