Icy Hot: Does It Actually Work

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In high school after a tough workout, long practice, or physical game my body would always feel sore and broken down. As busy as my schedule was, there was no time to take off and rest for a week or go to the doctor. Icy Hot turned into my best friend, and go-to treatment method because it was fast, easy and I believed  it worked. I started to use Icy Hot almost everyday and put it practically everywhere on my body. For example I used it my back, legs, shoulders and neck and I must admit it actually made me feel better at that moment.


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Icy Hot is a pain reliever in the form of a cream, gel, or spray which is used on arthritis pain, hurting muscles, and aching joints on the body. The chemical composition of Icy Hot is a combination of menthol, methyl salicylate, and capsaicin. This product is one of the most successful and popular muscle relief solutions sold in the world today as they have sold over $275 million just last year. So does this product actually work? The truth is, this product doesn’t actually help heal your bodies soreness. Icy Hot is an anesthetic which means its purpose is to block the nervous system and brain so you can’t feel your previous pain, the only thing you feel is the cream on your body. This is done because the methanol reveals a cooling sensation where as the capsaicin demonstrates a hot, burning feeling on the body. When it turns cold  the pain is dulled and when it is hot the muscles relax. Going from hot to cold actually distracts a person from feeling the pain because all they are so focused on the change in temperatures rather than any other injured body part. This treatment tricks the brain so a person doesn’t end up feeling the soreness in their muscles. Icy Hot seems effective but in reality it only causes short term pain relief. Rubbing the cream on your skin won’t heal your muscles or treat them. It seems Icy Hot has more of a placebo affect because when someone puts it on they seem to feel better automatically.

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The conclusion on whether Icy-Hot is a scam or a effective product is very controversial. The null hypothesis  is there is nothing going on when Icy Hot is appropriately used and doesn’t benefit or help heal the body. Many people do accept the null hypothesis because in the long run there is no healing of the body. According to the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis there isn’t enough proof or evidence to prove Icy Hot even works. They believe the only scientific test to provide a link between Icy Hot and muscle, joint healing is a double blind placebo test. This would mean there would be two groups. The injured members of one group would be given a cream or gel that doesn’t contain the chemical composition of Icy Hot and the other group of sore individuals will be given the actual product. If members of the control group which used Icy Hot felt better then we would know it actually works. According to Steve Cagle, the president of a company who produces analgesics conducted a study in 2003 and discovered  the people who use this who have muscle pain are more relieved and feel better after using a muscle relieving gel.

After my research I do think Icy Hot is an effective product to relive pain because it can take your mind of the real injury as you just think about the cold to hot sensations going on. I don’t think the product can heal or prevent injuries because the chemical composition is only made up of anesthetics which trigger your brain into thinking about something else. I still will use Icy Hot because personally it has cleared up my aches and pains and has definitely had a positive effect on my body.









3 thoughts on “Icy Hot: Does It Actually Work

  1. Taryn S Linker

    I really enjoyed your blog post. When I played soccer, I used to use Bengay and Icy-hot to help with the pain from sore, aching muscles. I’ve been researching and found that the cream contains methyl salicylate, a counterirritant. It creates a cooling sensation which switches to warm to distract the pain from the body. It’s important to note, especially as an athlete, the effects of excess use of this product. Salicylate poisoning although rare, is fatal, creating a toxic buildup in the body. I am aware of a case of this that has occurred in my hometown. Here is an article from CNN that describes the importance of using muscle creams and lotions in moderation.


  2. Alexander Mark Schaefer

    Almost every night after wrestling practice I’d come home and cover myself with the stuff. I was always too lazy to ice my back and knees, and I payed the price. I agree with your statement that Icy Hot only relieves pain, not actually healing it. What’s your thoughts on some breakthrough of a topical cream that actually heals the symptoms that Icy Hot relieves?

  3. Dana Corinne Pirrotta

    I can 100% relate to ritual of coming home after practice and smearing icy-hot all over sore spots. I always thought that icy-hot actually “healed” or “repaired” sore muscles because the cold would shock them and the heat would relax them. I had no idea that this cold and warm sensation was just a distraction for our brain and pain sensors. Although I think that it is really important that you talk about the possibility of a placebo effect, I don’t think that could be the case for many individuals. Icy-hot actually does make us feel better by blocking nerve endings! I think the likelihood of a placebo effect would be increased if the cream didn’t feel SO intense! I wonder how scientists were able to have a blind study because Icy-hot has a really unique feeling, and regular cream does not make your body feel like it was set on fire and then frozen! I would definitely be more interested in this experiment, and how scientists took this possibility into account. Here is an interesting article that details how you can
    overdose on bengay

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