The effectiveness of topical counterirritants in relieving pain remains unproven.
To examine the effectiveness of 2 topical counterirritant creams in reducing DOMS.
Subjects performed eccentric contractions of the non-dominant elbow-flexor muscles. 48 hours later they were randomly assigned to the following groups (n = 18 per group): placebo cream, capsaicin cream, or menthol/methyl salicylate cream.
Pain was assessed using a visual analog scale (VAS) before the exercise, 48 hours afterward, and 15 minutes after the cream was removed.
All groups demonstrated a significant (P < .05) elevation in their VAS scores 48 hours after the eccentric exercise, 0.12 ± 0.04 vs 2.79 ± 0.22. Only the subjects in the menthol/methyl salicylate group indicated a significant (P < .05) reduction in the perception of pain after treatment; their VAS declined to 1.22 ± 0.25.
A single application of the menthol/methyl salicylate cream is effective in relieving DOMS.
The authors are with the Dept of Biological Sciences, Chapman University, Orange, CA 92866.