How Do I Choose the Best Muscle Balm?

Madeleine A.

Choosing the best muscle balm depends on budget, allergies, and odor tolerance. Muscle balm is a type of muscle cream or body rub used in the treatment of muscle pain and aches. Generally, when the muscle balm is applied, a sense of heat is noticed, which promotes muscle relaxation and helps reduce pain. Many people enjoy the benefits that muscle balms provide, however, are intolerant of the strong odor certain brands possess. Many brands of muscle balms, however, either are unscented or provide a fresh, light scent.

The human muscular system.
The human muscular system.

Certain brands of muscle balm preparations contain aspirin compounds, eucalyptus oil, or menthol. Other brands of muscle balm used to treat sore muscles contain capsaicin, which is the compound that uses chili peppers to produce their spicy heat. Capsaicin muscle balms are thought to stimulate blood flow and improve circulation, speeding healing of injured or sore muscles.

Balms that contain capsaicin, a chemical that gives red peppers their heat, can be used to relieve muscle pain.
Balms that contain capsaicin, a chemical that gives red peppers their heat, can be used to relieve muscle pain.

Muscle balm that contains capsaicin should never be used around the eyes or mucus membranes. If even minute amounts of capsaicin balm come into contact with the eyes, severe burning and possible vision loss can occur. After using a capsaicin-based muscle balm, the hands should be thoroughly washed so that no traces remain on the skin, including under the fingernails. If the product does get into the eyes, mouth, or nose, the area should be flushed with large amounts of water, followed with a consultation with a health care provider.

Most muscle balm preparations are tolerated by most people, but they can cause local side effects or allergic reactions. These may include redness, itching, and swelling, as well as rashes, numbness, and tingling. If these reactions occur, the product should be discontinued, and the health care provider notified. Those who experience adverse reactions from muscle balms can consider other methods of treating sore muscles such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, mild exercise, heat or cold application, or massage.

For severe muscle pain, the health care provider needs to be notified prior to beginning treatment with a muscle cream. Serious conditions need to be ruled out before an effective treatment plan can be put into place. A muscle cream may not be an appropriate form of therapy for certain medical conditions, and by delaying appropriate treatment, complications can arise.

Muscle creams and rubs can be purchased over the counter, however, certain types are available by prescription only. Also, some brands are very moderately priced, while other brands are more expensive. Certain muscle rubs may interact negatively with other medications or medical conditions, so discussing these issues with the health care provider is warranted prior to using them.

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