My experience with using Biofreeze as a physical therapist in my practice spans decades. It has been a very helpful tool in my practice. When I was first introduced to the product years ago, this green gooey gel quite lived up to its name: “Freeze”.
Being so excited about trying the product, I used my bare hands during manual therapy treatments to patients at my outpatient clinic years ago. After my third patient and using Biofreeze with my bare hands, I started dropping things. My therapists teased me, “butterfingers”. Indeed, it was hard to feel my hands as they felt frozen! So I knew this thing works indeed!
To make a long story short. I have been using Biofreeze since then. I have seen it work for patients with swollen joints from the inflammation due to arthritis conditions. As Biofreeze indicates on its labels, it is intended for arthritis, sore muscles, and joints.
Almost everyone who comes to the clinic suffers from one or all of those conditions. It is also great for managing edema, swelling, pain, as it has the ability to cool off the skin surface once applied on a warm, inflamed area. Considered a cryotherapy gel, its cooling effect is exceptional.
The reason why Biofreeze works is the Pain Gate Theory:
Pain happens when your receptors send a signal from your spine to your brain. Cold sensations, like menthol, stimulate receptors to block those signals to relieve pain.
Applying Biofreeze to the skin does relieve pain because of this mechanism of the pain gate. Swollen joints from arthritis are usually warm, stiff. I have seen and observed how Biofreeze decreases that temperature in a matter of seconds, usually in as little as 10 seconds. Incredible right?
This is so true with our patients who just had knee surgeries, either an arthroscopic procedure or a knee replacement. These patients usually come in with significant stiffness, pain swelling, as not all of them are diligent with using cold packs at home for symptom control, as instructed.
Before I even start their therapy session, I apply Biofreeze and massage the swollen joint gently: just around the surgical site and even the whole limb if the swelling reaches the ankles. I do this around the dressing of course, not over it.
Applied in an up and down or gentle circular motion, this also allows the better lymphatic flow to the area, allowing trapped water within the skin to get redirected to circulate better along the leg.
I do use nitrile gloves as again, I don’t like my fingers freezing with use. We do see as many as 12 patients or more a day. That’s a lot of Biofreeze applications with bare hands that’s more than enough to freeze any finger. 😁
I find that compliance with therapy improves significantly when pain relief is addressed prior to doing therapeutic exercises during the therapy session. It may also be, that combined with a therapist’s magical hands, the pain relief achieved with Biofreeze is even magnified.👌💁
BIOFREEZE FOR HEADACHES AND NECK PAIN
In my experience, using Biofreeze for headaches also works. Applied to the back of the neck, the base of the skull (occipital region) with manual therapy techniques, it helps calm down headaches, muscle spasms, and neck stiffness.
Just a simple massage to the painful and sore areas, simple pressure on the base of the skull, sides of the head with the fingers, and moving the muscles of the neck and upper trapezius muscles can help eliminate muscle tightness and spasms.
I have used Biofreeze in many more conditions and ailments. I may discuss those at another time. Biofreeze has now many variations of product packaging. It is available in the original gel form, which can be original or colorless.
It is also available as a roll-on and a spray, to suit people’s preferences. They have come up lately with the professional-grade Biofreeze which I felt really seems to have longer-lasting effects.
Biofreeze is indeed a big name for medical and health professionals alike. It is a product that did have longevity due to its effectiveness and the ongoing research to come up with more products. Biofreeze is easily available from sellers and distributors. Amazon does carry Biofreeze products.
As for me, I just know it’s one of the many tools of the trade a physical therapist like me can have. I am all for making patient’s day-to-day life better!
I’d say 20-30% of patients we see at the clinic are being referred for back pain. It can be different conditions including spinal stenosis, bulging discs, sciatica, and other back issues. It can be very unpleasant, where you can experience pain that radiates to the leg, at times burning, tingling, or at times would feel like pins and needles all the way down the leg.
About four out of five Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. It can take many forms, but lower back pain is the most common. Fortunately, there are many simple lifestyle changes you can make to avoid an aching back.
DAYTIME LIFESTYLE CHANGES
1.Maintain a healthy body weight.Being overweight strains your back and disrupts your balance. Abdominal fat is especially problematic. Spot reducing is a myth but your midsection will usually slim down along with the rest of your body when you lose excess pounds.
2.Exercise regularly. Yoga is a great way to improve your posture and flexibility and strengthen your muscles. Any physical activity can help fight inflammation by increasing the flow of blood and nutrients to your back.
3.Eat more calcium.Strong bones help protect you from osteoporosis, a leading cause of back pain, especially for women. Eat your yogurt and leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale.
4.Follow safety guidelines at work. Ergonomics is now commonplace in workplaces due to the high cost of injuries. Back injuries are the most common type of workplace injuries. Talk with your employer about job design features that will keep you productive and safe. You can opt for an ergonomic chair or a high – low office desk that allows you to stand in between tasks.
5.Practice good posture.Make it a habit to press your lower abdomen against your spine. Keep your shoulders held back and relaxed. Hold your head up.
6. Observe Good Sitting Posture.Try to use an adjustable chair that will give you all the support you need. Prop a pillow against your lower back if needed. Keep your knees a little higher than your hips. Change positions or take a brief walk frequently.
7.Observe Proper and Safe Lifting.Most people have surely heard the statement, “Lift with your legs, not with your back”. This is to make sure you are using the most powerful muscle in the body to lift, and not the smaller and weaker back muscles. I have had many patients rupture a disc from lifting and twisting the trunk.
Bend down at the knees and lift with your legs to avoid putting the whole load on your back. Carry heavy objects close to your body. Get help if an object is too heavy for youto lift alone.
8.Dress comfortably.Stiletto heels and heavy handbags can cause knee and back pain. So can overstuffing your pockets or wearing anything two sizes too small. Enjoy dressing up for special occasions but ensure your everyday wardrobe allows a full range of movement and your tote bag stays under 10 percent of your body weight.
NIGHTIME LIFESTYLE CHANGES
1.Select the right mattress for you.A moderately firm mattress usually works best because it adapts to the natural curves of your spine. If you have a firm mattress, an inch or two of padding on top may help.
2.Sleep on your side.Sleeping on your side with your knees slightly bent helps protect your back. Even better, put a small pillow between your knees to keep your hips aligned.
3.Sleep on your back.Sleeping on your back is also good. Stick a small pillow under your knees to maintain the curve in your lower back. Use enough pillow to position neck comfortably, not flexed forward as it can make breathing uncomfortable and stretch the posterior structures of the neck.
4.Stop sleeping on your stomach. Lying on your stomach puts extra stress on your back and neck. You can wake up with neck stiffness and this bad habit can cause a rotational pressure in the neck alignment compromising your discs. Break the habit, lie on your side, and use pillows supporting your neck and shoulder. For better comfort, also place pillows in between your knees to maintain good spine alignment in sidelying. that will make it harder to roll over.
5.Avoid alcohol. You may fall asleep faster by drinking alcohol but it impairs the quality of your sleep and you’re more likely to wake up with aches and pains. Some prescription medications may also interfere with sleep.
6.Apply heat.A heat pack is an easy and safe way to keep a little ache from growing into a big one.Get a hot water bottle or a pack that you can microwave and apply to any spot that needs a little extra care. I do want to note that microwaveable heat pads do not last as long and you may end up going back to heat it up over and over. A commercial plug-in heat pad like this one is available on Amazon.
I just happen to refer my patients to Amazon, Walgreens, Target, or Walmart to get one like this especially one with an automatic shut-off to ensure safety.
It is imperatively important to see a doctor if you feel any numbness or tingling, or if you experience severe or chronic pain. For most backaches, these self-help techniques will give you effective relief and keep the pain from coming back.
The World’s Worst Sore Muscle Advice and What to Do Instead
I work with both younger and older adults at my private practice clinic. A common complaint however especially after a physical therapy session: “I am sore!!!” Never fails.
Providing education, however, goes a long way in making these patients understand that working specific muscles to address pain, correct movement, does take a toll on muscles but it also promotes its ability and capacity to tolerate more load, allowing an individual to perform daily tasks pain-free.
Soreness can be expected when muscles work just beyond what a person does normally on an average day. The results however are worth the effort. This does reassure patients to work through the therapeutic activities knowing it is for a specific purpose.
Some good days, you’re pleased with yourself for finally painting the guest room or spending an extra half hour on the rowing machine. The next day you can barely brush your teeth because you’re sore all over. You probably have a case of delayed onset muscle soreness. This is common for weekend warriors as well. And….. we do get them a lot at our clinic.
That achy feeling is caused by microscopic tears in your muscle tissue, which lead to inflammation and discomfort. It can present itself about 1 or 2 days after engaging in strenuous activity or a task that you don’t normally do on regular days.
Though it is nothing serious, there are some things that will relieve the pain. Other things you’re better off avoiding.
Worst Advice for Treating Sore Muscles
1.Be a couch potato.“Rest, don’t do anything”, “Stop working out”, “Stop doing exercises”. Although there is merit to this, inactivity will prolong your soreness. Daily conditioning is better, doing easy exercises as per your physical therapist’s advice, or from a good personal or athletic trainer. This consistent and well-planned exercise program or routine is best for your body than popping into the gym once every three months.
2.Assume all pain is the same.Sudden pain requires a different approach.Stop what you’re doing. Sharp, sudden onset pain is an indication of a significant problem. It can indicate a torn tendon, a sprain or strain, even a fracture in more serious cases. Some patients I worked with fractured toes and ruptured Achilles tendon from doing certain exercises in Crossfit that they are not used to. On the other side of the spectrum, some older adults fracture a hip just by standing up from sitting. Get medical attention if needed for muscle strains and tears.
3.Worry about lactic acid. Experts used to believe that soreness was caused by lactic acid buildups. Research now shows that lactic acid dissolves almost instantly after exercising.
During exercise, the body uses oxygen to break down glucose for energy. When exercising intensely, there may not be enough oxygen available to complete the process. This is when a substance called lactate/lactate acid is produced. Your body can convert this lactate to energy without using oxygen.
The research did determine that lactic acid, is actually an important energy source for muscles. it further found that the accumulation of lactate does not inhibit the ability of skeletal muscles to contract. The notion that lactic acid is responsible for the delayed onset of muscle soreness, (also known as DOMS), was debunked in the 1980s. Research suggested that muscle soreness is a result of subsequent physiological effects as a response to microscopic trauma sustained during intense exercise. This cascade includes inflammation in the muscles in response to the microtrauma. The research about lactic acid in recent years in relation to muscle fatigue has evolved over the last century. It indicated that lactic acid is not actually the culprit that it was once thought to be in regards to muscle fatigue.
Do these Instead to Help Your Sore Muscles
1.Stay active. Moving around increases blood flow. Movement, engaging muscles in daily activities ensure their capacity for activity tolerance.Movement and exercise circulates more oxygen and nutrients to all your body parts so they can heal and grow stronger.
2.Cross-train.Alternating between recreational activities or sports allows optimal muscle function. Even high-level athletes do it. Famous and renowned basketball players cross-train with soccer, even yoga! Kayaking, paddleboarding, and running target different muscles. Give your arms a day off and work your legs instead. Head for the pool instead of the jogging track.
3.Intensify workouts gradually.Start easy. You can increase repetitions from 10 to 15 repsto 20 reps as you get better. Always refer to a physical therapist, trainer, or athletic trainer for exercise strategies appropriate for your specific status and condition. Increasing your workout load by 10% or less a week is a good rule to follow. That means running 11 miles if you usually do 10.
4.Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!Dehydration weakens muscles and makes them more prone to soreness. Again, many theories are out there on how much water you need in a day. A rule of thumb, 8 glasses a day. Whether you drink a little lesser or more, your body still gets the hydration it needs. Try coconut water. Potassium-rich, with electrolytes too. Carry a water bottle with you to the gym. Sip water all day long.
5.Stretch and cool down.Stretching and cooling down makes your workout routine more efficient. Even after playing any recreational sport. Schedule about 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each workout for gentler movements and flexibility training. Bicycle slowly or walk in place. Perform a few static stretches. Move slowly and evenly. Hold each position without straining or bouncing.
6.Pamper yourself.Get a massage! You deserve it. We work hard all week long. The body knows that. It will also appreciate a winding-down time just to allow relaxation and recovery. Book a session with a sports massage specialist or watch a video about how to perform a self-massage. Check out Groupon for local deals. You’ll be surprised how many good deals you can find in your area. You can go for a session for as low as $25, and establish a rapport with a licensed massage therapist where you can go regularly. They are great at giving you deals for other services too! There are many effective techniques you can use at home or anywhere.
7.Practice visualization.Visualization and meditation can decrease pain without any harmful side effects. Sit down and imagine your breath soothing away all discomfort. There are many resources online, even videos on meditation and visualization. The point is to take time to give your body a break for healing and relaxation.
8. Try Cryotherapy.Cold treatment works with sore muscles, especially after intense activity. Cold packs, ice packs, corn syrup packs, ice massage. A point to remember, cold constricts. It causes vasoconstriction, or constriction of blood vessels.Ice works best when applied at the first sign of soreness. Protect your skin by wrapping a towel around an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables. A pillowcase also works great to really allow that coldness to reach deeper layers of the sore area.
9.Use heat.Heat, especially in chronic cases can relieve soreness, aches, and pains better than ice. It is also a matter of personal preference. Some individuals get relief better with cold, some, with heat. Try which gives you the best relief.Heat may aggravate inflammation, but it also relaxes muscles and reduces spasms. After heat, I have advised patients to also finish it off with cold, for a few minutes. Take a warm bath or apply a heat pack. Ask your doctor about ultrasound and electrical current treatments. Below is an example of a heating pad. Check Amazon for many products. (I am not an affiliate of Amazon nor any of the sellers.)
Tip: Start with a warm or hot bath. Finish it off with a cold shower for about 2-3 minutes, Works great for me after an intense tennis game with colleagues!
10. Check out a health food store. Consult your primary physician for supplements that are appropriate for your health status or other prescription medications you may be taking. Some people get positive results from certain herbs and vitamins. You may want to try vitamin E supplements or willow bark tea. Tell your doctor about any substances you use to ensure they’re suitable for you.
11.Take a pain reliever if necessary. Always consult your doctor.Many over-the-counter products provide quick relief. Aspirin and ibuprofen are often recommended because they treat both pain and inflammation. If you use pain-relieving creams, avoid tight bandages or heating pads to prevent skin irritation.
Some pain-relieving creams I use at the clinic: Biofreeze professional-grade, Sombra. There are myriads of brands you can try. Check Amazon. read the reviews. Some products I saw: Pain grenade, Arnicare, Blue Emu, Hemp Relief, Icy Hot, and others.
Regular physical activity helps you to live a longer and healthier life. You can get fit without any muscle soreness, but for occasional soreness due to over-activity, try these tips for some quick relief. As always, there’s always a physical therapist near you. They would give you good advice and directions. 🙂