There is no question that more people nowadays are not only seeking out chiropractic care, but also believe that it can help relieve their pain.
A 2015 Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans (61 percent) thought that chiropractic was an effective treatment for neck and back pain.1 Furthermore, approximately half of all American adults have made at least one visit to a chiropractor, with more than 33 million American adults having done so just within the previous 12 months (2014).
Odds are good that you have seen this trend even within your own practice.
Another trend you may be seeing is more patients who are looking for preventive care, rather than simply care to relieve pain. Athletic patients are an excellent example of this, as they want to keep in top shape, whether they are elite competitors or just weekend warriors.
Unfortunately, joint pain to the feet, ankle, and knees can often keep them on the sidelines. However, some intriguing research has found that topical analgesics, such as those that contain menthol, may provide fast-acting relief from musculoskeletal pain and allow your patients to get back into the game more quickly than with standard painkillers such as aspirin or NSAIDs.
Advantages of a topical analgesic
The main advantage of a topical analgesic is that it goes directly to the area that hurts, unlike with aspirin or NSAIDs. Furthermore, topical analgesics are an excellent alternative for your patients who are sensitive to standard oral pain medications in terms of gastrointestinal distress.2
Another advantage, particularly for menthol analgesics, is that there are no adverse side effects. Menthol works by attaching to a particular neuron receptor that tricks the brain into feeling a pleasant cooling sensation in the affected area, thereby distracting the patient from feeling pain.2
In fact, a menthol analgesic doesn’t actually reduce the skin temperature. Instead, it makes the body think that the skin has been cooled down.
What does the research say?
A 2012 article published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy looked at the effectiveness of a topical menthol analgesic compared to ice for reducing pain and allowing greater muscle force.3 Sixteen subjects were randomized to receive either a 3.5 percent topical menthol preparation or ice to the non-dominant elbow two days following exercise meant to induce muscle soreness.
Muscle force was also measured at baseline before exercise, and then 20, 25, and 35 minutes after either analgesic or ice treatment two days later.3 The researchers found that the topical analgesic significantly reduced muscle soreness and pain compared to the use of ice.
Certainly, your athletic patients will need to come in for regular adjustments as part of a wellness maintenance routine. However, they may also be looking for ways to reduce muscle stiffness, soreness and pain that invariably come with being active in a variety of sports.
Offering a good-quality menthol topical analgesic is an excellent way to keep them in the game between regular visits.
- English C, Keating E. Majority in U.S. say chiropractic works for neck, back pain. Gallup Polls, September 2015. Accessed 9/9/2016.
- Pendick D. Rub-on pain reliever can ease arthritis discomfort. Harvard Health Blogs. Accessed 9/9/2016.
- Johar P, Grover V, Topp R, Behm DG. A comparison of topical menthol to ice on pain, evoked tetanic and voluntary force during delayed onset muscle soreness. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2012;7(3):314-322.