If you're using sports creams a lot, consult your physician

Fitness Q & A

Health & Fitness

October 19, 2003|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

Do sports creams like Icy Hot do anything other than numb the area you apply them to? Is there any harm in using these creams and then continuing to work out?

Over-the-counter topical creams and patches like Ben-Gay and Icy Hot are designed to warm the muscle or joint and temporarily relieve pain. If you are looking for a more substantial result, you won't find it here. Does your pain go beyond muscle soreness or arthritis? If the answer is yes, you need a doctor, not a sports cream.

If you are in enough pain that you can't work out without a cream, it's possible that you could inflict further damage by lathering up and then hitting the gym. As Charlie McMillin of the Greenspring Lifestyle Center in Lutherville says, "If the inflammation is simply a symptom, all of the sports cream in the world isn't going to help."

I'm in my 40s and have a stressful job. I have no family history of heart problems and I try to exercise regularly. Do I need to take a stress test?

We posed this question to Johns Hopkins internist Dr. Thomas Erlinger, who referred us to the 2002 American College of Cardiology "Statement on Exercise Stress Testing." The statement suggests that men over age 45 and women over 55 who are undertaking an exercise routine more strenuous than walking may want to consider being tested. Overall, with no family history, no symptoms and a steady exercise routine, you probably have no need to worry. But if you have to ask, why not take the test? Better safe than sorry.

Do you have a fitness question? Write to Fitness, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. You can also fax questions to 410-783-2519 or e-mail fitness@ baltsun.com.

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