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Trolamine salicylate

Trolamine salicylate: The ‘Deep-Heat’ debate

Trolamine salicylate is the key ingredient to most creams that claim when applied directly to the skin can cure muscular aches and pains. Until recently however, the validity of trolamine salicylate as a sound tool for curing muscle-pain has been highly contested.

The First Test

Just over ten years ago, researchers at a Veterinarians Medical Center in Philadelphia applied trolamine salicylate skin cream on to the knees of both dogs and humans. The canines with trolamine rubbed into their knees had 20 times as much salicylate in the underlying muscles; compared to those who were taking aspirin orally (salicylate is the active ingredient in aspirin).

The research documented one very important fact: even though pill-popping pooches had higher BLOOD levels of salicylate, animals using skin cream had much more of the drug in their tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and joint cavities, where it really mattered, and where the chemical could actually relieve pain and inflammation.

In the Philadelphia research, results with humans were similar, with ample amount of salicylate building up in joint cavities. Actual pain relief was just as good with the salicylate skin cream, compared to ingesting aspirin orally. Plus, the researchers noted one special cream advantage: the ointment rapidly penetrated the skin and then lingered in the underlying muscles and connective tissues for long periods of time, only slowly drifting into the blood stream to be carried away. Overall, the skin cream removed discomfort with none of the side effects or the oral medicine.

The Second Findings

In a more recent test of trolamine salicylate, packaged in a commercial product called Aspercreme, scientists at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami asked 22 males and 12 females to perform three sets of 20 repetitions of biceps curls each day for five consecutive days in order to induce significant muscle soreness. Four times each day, the study subjects rubbed one-half ounce of cream onto the skin directly over the biceps muscles. Half of the subjects rubbed in Aspercreme, the other half employed a placebo cream. Unaware of which cream they were actually using, subjects rated biceps soreness on a O to 10 scale several times a day.

As it turned out, the Aspercreme provided three main benefits:

  1. Muscle soreness appeared within 12 hours after initial exercise for the placebo users but took 24 hours to appear for Aspercreme appliers.
  2. The amount of pain experienced was significantly lower for Aspercreme users.
  3. Pain persisted for one day less with Aspercreme.

Concluding the trolamine debate

Analgesic creams containing 10 per cent trolamine salicylate really do work. There's also the intriguing possibility that a bit of skin cream rubbed on one of your body's 'hot spots' BEFORE a workout may actually reduce the amount of inflammation and pain which may be experienced after the session is over.

Trolamine salicylate