They may not offer relief from aches and pains
There is no convincing evidence that liniments and balms work on sore muscles and joints, say experts.
Researchers who looked at data from 16 studies looking at creams containing painkiller salicylate found no proven benefits. They said other analgesic gels may well work, and recommended more research.
When used for chronic conditions, salicylates performed better than placebos. But only one in six patients with chronic pain from conditions like osteoarthritis benefited substantially from using the muscle rubs compared with one in three using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkiller gels like ibuprofen or diclofenac.
Lead researcher Dr Andrew Moore, of the Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at the University of Oxford, said: ‘When it comes to muscle rubs they do not work well enough to take any notice of them. What we know does work is topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gels like ibuprofen.’
Peter Gladwell, a clinical specialist physiotherapist working in pain management, said some patients might want to try muscle rubs alongside other treatments, including exercise and relaxation techniques.
‘A patient with chronic pain, considering the possible use of a muscle rub, will learn from this review that they have a one in six chance of achieving 50% pain relief. They have a one in three chance of achieving 50% pain relief using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory gel.’
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