Back Pain Took Me Out of the Race. This Salve Got Me Back on Track
By Amy Garcia Thursday, December 21, 2017, 9:41 am
Whether it's a favorite pair of shoes, a beloved set of mittens, or even a trusty thermos, we've all fallen in love with products that makes our running lives better. With Man, I Just Love This… we at Runner's World have decided to share some of our life-changing favorites.
I was a sophomore on the varsity track team at Johns Hopkins University when my back started acting up. I didn’t want to stop running, but there wasn’t really much of a choice. My back hurt even when I was just sitting in class—no chance it would hold up through repeat 300s around the track.
Hoping to sort out the issue, I sat through doctor’s appointments, hours of physical therapy, and painful trigger-point sessions—to no avail. I was frustrated at the lack of answers, and terrified that I might not be able to run again. Still unsure of what was wrong, I was cleared to return to practice, but the pain persisted, so I continued to rest, dejected.
Until my mom offhandedly suggested I try some random pain relief cream I'd never heard of before, called Biofreeze. With nothing to lose, I grabbed a tube of the stuff at the pharmacy, smeared it all over my back, and jogged out for my first practice in a year.
I didn’t feel a thing as I ran, just a tingling sensation. It’s called Biofreeze for a reason. It works as cold therapy, providing the benefits of ice but without the accompanying skin irritation. My back felt ice cold for about 15 minutes after I put in on. But the alternative was burning pain.
Once the elation and shock of running pain-free wore off, the first thing I noticed was BioFreeze's pungent smell. The mighty musk of mint made me immediately think of the starting line of a race, where other battered athletes also turned to miracle salves to help them train and compete. It's got the same shocking scent—harshly minty, with the sort of kick you get from eating a glob of wasabi—as Bengay and other pain-relieving creams.
It's off-putting to many, but to me, it’s the smell of success.
After the next Biofreeze-fueled practice passed pain-free, and the practice after that, and the practice after that, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was running again! I was training, and I could get back to racing.
I brought Biofreeze everywhere. There was a bottle in my locker to take to practice. There was one in my backpack to bring to class. And there was a backup bottle in my room just in case I lost any of the others. I would never allow those muscle spasms to take over my life again.
Now, as a post-collegiate runner, I sprint less and log more miles. The aches and pains are different, but my trust in Biofreeze is unchanged. I still carry a bottle around all the time, even though my muscle spasms aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be. Better safe than sorry.