Dr. Bishop was recently recognized in the magazine Chiropractic Economics for his research with the Theraband product, Biofreeze. Check out the article below!
Go-to Pain Reliever
By Melissa Heyboer
For years, ice has been recognized as the surest, safest, and cheapest form of cryotherapy. After all, it’s naturally produced and proven to be effective in reducing pain and swelling. But is it really as convenient and effective as previously thought?
Topical analgesics have become an increasingly popular form of cryotherapy for doctors and patients- and research is starting to prove its superior efficacy.
A recent study, completed by Robert Topp, PhD, RN, compared blood flow in the arm after ice and a specific topical analgesic were applied. The results concluded that applying this topical analgesic reduced blood flow more rapidly than when ice was applied.
The application of ice didn’t significantly reduce blood flow until 20 minutes after the application. At 20 minutes following the application of these treatments, the study showed that this specific topical analgesic provided significantly greater muscle function.
However, while it reduced blood flow much quicker than ice, the reduction did last longer in the ice condition. This quick reduction may be a great benefit in the very acute stages of injury, but more research is needed.
A second study, completed by Barton Bishop, PT, DPT, SCS, TPI CFGI-MP2, CKTP, CSCS, indicated that the same topical analgesic used in the Topp study had twice the pain reduction as ice and lasted longer nine times out of 10. Both Topp and Bishop, however, say that while the research speaks for itself, the benefits of using certain topical analgesics extend beyond just documented performance.
Maybe the most noticeable difference between cryotherapy as a cream and cryotherapy as ice is the convenience factor.
“Being able to apply a gel to your body and within a minute it’s dry and still receive the cooling effect and the pain-relief effect, is a huge convenience factor to patients,” says Bishop. “You can put it on at work, and not be worried about trying to figure out a way to add ice to your body and so on.”
Topp adds that topical analgesics are not only more portable and less messy than the alternative, but he admits that excessive use of ice can be damaging to the tissue. “You can actually get tissue damage by leaving ice on too long,” says Topp. “But with topical analgesics, you can keep putting it on up to four times each day and there’s no risk of damage that we know of.”
In fact, both Topp and Bishop believe that certain analgesics may actually have the potential to improve a patient’s overall wellness.
“We don’t necessarily know whether long-term topical analgesic us is going to create overall functional improvements in patients,” says Bishop. “What we do know is that in the immediate short term, you have studies which proved patients received twice the pain relief and it was more comfortable.” So if we can have the patients confidence in us then they’re more likely to come back. And if they’re likely to come back, then they’re more likely to have a better, overall, long-term function and wellness.
A patients overall wellness can be improved with the avoidance of using prescription medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Something both Topp and Bishop say is another benefit of using topical analgesics.
There are definitely advantages over pharmacological treatment of pain, says Topp. There doesn’t seem to be a systemic affect that you would get from say, NSAIDS, or dependency on narcotics.
Bishop added, If they would use that [topical analgesic] instead of taking prescription medication, then they’d have better wellness. They wouldn’t have the potential ill effect of taking any sort of prescription narcotics or over-the-counter drug that has long-term deleterious effects on the body.