Use of Bengay on Exercised Muscles

Runner leg and muscle pain during running training outdoors

High-load resistance training can result in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which often becomes apparent 24 to 48 hours after exercising. DOMS is caused by damage to individual muscle cells during exercise. Topical agents such as Bengay can help alleviate the discomfort associated with DOMS when applied to the skin over sore muscles.

Muscle Damage During Exercise

According the the authors of the textbook, "Exercise Science," exercise breaks you down while rest builds you up. The benefits derived from strenuous exercise are a result of the natural healing process that occurs in response to microscopic damage to muscle fibers during exercise. It is this healing process, triggered by exercise-induced damage, that results in muscle growth and in strength gain.

Muscle Soreness

The exercise-induced muscle damage causes the release of cellular chemicals into the spaces surrounding the muscle cells. Specialized nerve receptors called nocioceptors, sensitive to these chemicals, detect the injury and send pain signals to your central nervous system. In addition, the localized swelling that occurs in response to the muscle damage increases the fluid pressure within the muscles and contributes to the feeling of discomfort and soreness.

Bengay's Mechanism of Action

Bengay, produced and marketed by the Johnson & Johnson Company, is a topical cream applied to the skin over sore muscles. Its three main active ingredients, menthol, camphor and methyl salicylate, create conflicting sensations of warmth and cold. This sensation, when transmitted by the nervous system, competes with and helps to block the pain signals associated with DOMS. Bengay has no direct effect on the muscles themselves.

Severe Muscle Damage in Exercise

If exercise is too severe, more significant muscle damage can occur and involve actual tears and ruptures of muscle fibers and tendons. This degree of muscle injury is associated with pain -- sometimes severe -- not just the low-level soreness and stiffness characteristic of DOMS. Topical remedies such as Bengay have little effect on this level of pain, and you should consult a physician if this occurs.