Skin Cream Soothes Sore Muscles

Anti-inflammatory Cream Eases Muscle Soreness after Exercise

From the WebMD Archives

July 15, 2003 - There is new hope on the horizon to soothe sore muscles but without the aggravating - and sometimes dangerous -- side effects of anti-inflammatory pills like aspirin or ibuprofen.

A study published in the July issue of the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine shows that an anti-inflammatory skin cream can ease the muscle soreness that develops after a workout.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego tested 32 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 35. They compared a cream version of the anti-inflammatory drug ketoprofen (Orudis KT) with a placebo skin cream. (Researchers excluded women to avoid fertility or pregnancy complications.)

The results? At 48 hours after exercising, the volunteers who used the anti-inflammatory cream reported up to 45% less muscle soreness than those who used the placebo cream. Muscle soreness tends to peak 24 to 48 hours after a work out.

The Problem With Pills

Today, anti-inflammatory pills are the most commonly prescribed medications to treat pain and inflammation related to exercise. Common forms include ibuprofen, Aleve, and the old standby, aspirin. But the side effects can take their toll on the body, solving one problem while creating others. Side effects include:

  • Gastrointestinal complications such as ulcers and heartburn
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Higher bleeding tendency, especially with aspirin

Each year, an estimated 103,000 patients are hospitalized in the U.S. for gastrointestinal complications from anti-inflammatory pills. More than 16,000 such deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone, according to researchers of the study.

How an Anti-inflammatory Cream Can Help

Researchers say the best news about a skin cream alternative is it probably will not have the same side effects as a pill. The study shows only 1% of the medication is absorbed into the bloodstream. Researchers say another advantage to using a cream is patients can apply the anti-inflammatory drug directly where it's needed.

Skin cream formulations of anti-inflammatory drugs are not available over the counter in the U.S. Doctors must prescribe a customized compound that is prepared by a pharmacist.

Researchers say that additional studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment with ketoprofen skin cream as well as its use in treating chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

SOURCE: Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, July 2003. News Release, University of California San Diego.