Friday, December 11, 2009


I have a fascination with the claims that over the counter pain remedies make. Having had back problems for most of my conscious life, I am always a bit wary of the claims of anyone or anything to reduce the pain. In fact after several prescriptions of 600 milligram Motrin, Loritabs, Tramadol, Lidocain patches and a lumbar Cortisone shot, none of which managed to even touch the pain, I sort of lost faith. I figure with two herniated discs and a small stress fracture, the best I could do was learn to live with the pain. I mean how many more doctors could I possibly listen to who would tell me that “Back pain is common. 80% of Americans have some sort of back pain.” True, perhaps, but with over 67% of American adults classified as overweight or obese (, back problems are not surprising. The human skeleton is just not meant to carry around that much extra weight. Couple that with the stagnant American lifestyle and the number of hours per week people spend hunched over a desk, is it any wonder 80% of Americans have back problems? I, unfortunately am one of those 80%.

Well suffice it to say that none of the prescribed pharmaceuticals helped the pain. Some of them made me not care that I was in pain, but the pain did not cease and my belief in Western medicine faltered. (Go figure.) So when I saw the Icy Hot® Patch (, I chuckled to myself and didn’t really believe the claims, but I must admit I was intrigued. I figured if it didn’t work, I’d be no worse off than I was the day before, $14 poorer, but no worse off. And considering I had spent no less than $1500 on the multiple doctor visits and the Cortisone shot, I figured $14 was no big deal. So I bought some. I got the XL because I figured the bigger the better. Why not, if you’re going to go for it, might as well throw caution to the wind.

On the evening that I decided to try them, I was in the usually amount of pain. Nothing extraordinary. I could move pretty well and the constant nagging was just nagging, not debilitating. I read the instructions which gave three easy steps “Pop, Peel and Apply”. The patches themselves come sticky-side down on a plastic sheet which you need to peel off. You then take the large gauzy, sticky patch and apply it to the aching area. It smelled like icy hot, you know that sort of medicinal, eucalyptus scent, but nothing too terrible. I didn’t smell entirely like an old man, for which I was quite grateful. The regular Icy Hot tends to have that effect. The patch must keep the scent contained. I did not understand exactly what was meant by the “pop” instruction so I just used what little finger nails I have to remove the plastic sheeting. It took a minute or two, but I managed. I applied the XL patch, which is 75% larger than the normal size and waited for something magic to occur. It was just like the Icy Hot cream that I remembered, only it didn’t move around, didn’t get wiped off, and didn’t make my clothes or my sheets smell like a nursing home. It was cold going on and a minute later is was hot. (hence the name – Icy Hot.) And the best part is that it worked. It clearly didn’t fix the crack in my spine or scoot my discs back into place, but it did make the whole area feel better. I was astounded.

The instructions say that you can keep the patch on for up to 8 hours, so I went to bed with it on. I half expected to wake up with a minor skin irritation, but I was willing to take that chance for a night of reduced back pain. When I woke up, no irritation and the patch was right where I left it, on my body. It wasn’t crumpled up at the bottom of the bed, stuck to the sheets. It wasn’t stuck in my hair. It hadn’t moved at all. But my 8 hours was up so I had to remove it. The adhesive they use is clearly just short of Gorilla glue since it didn’t budge even with all of my nocturnal movement, so, with good reason, I expected to tear of at least one layer of skin with the patch. I was wrong on that one too. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. Granted an XL Band-Aid, but a Band-Aid, nonetheless. I’m sure if you are a hairy guy, you may have a different opinion on this one, but upon removal, I did not feel like I was being waxed by a sadist.

The Icy Hot Patch won’t fix a major medical problem, but then again, neither do hundreds of dollars worth of doctors visits, prescriptions drugs and minor “procedures.” In all, it did more for my back pain than all of the above combined and it didn’t make me incoherent, incapacitated, incapable of movement or force me to drive for hours only to wait several more hours to spend a lot of money on a solution that failed. In fact, I would say that the Icy Hot Patch is far better at fixing back pain than any of the multiple doctors and specialists I’ve seen. And except for the “pop” instruction, easier to comprehend, significantly less intimidating, far more effective and a fraction of the price.


  1. Nice post. I share similar problems as you, although no fracture, just a botched Microdiscectomy which left me with terrible impairment. I too, use icy hot patches, although I'm in my 20's and even the lightest scent of icy hot subjects me to endless torture from my friends saying I smell of an " old fart" persay. I care that i get called " old", but my personal feelings quickly remind me to start NOT caring when that acute pain hits the chronic pain! Anyway, the POP? Just means pull both ends apart gently until that perforated plastic snaps. Then you can expose the adhesive side without touching it by pulling the inside plastic perforated section outward ( which also gives the same appearance a huge band-aid would have when you partly remove the paper to place the bandage on a sore). Then once you put it on your back and pull the plastic ends as you would a band-aid, it also pulls the patch even on your back like a band-aid. I hope I made sense and didn't type any unnecessary banter. Also, we know the pain we are feeling and I honestly hope you get relief, and I wish you peace of mind.

  2. I am an ICY HOT fanatic.
    Same as you as far as meds...
    Loracet, vicodin, ultram, lyrica, neurontin, Percocet... Not really helpful with the pain, just give you a feeling of I hurt but I am gonna get up and do something anyways. Which I have to admit is slightly better than I hurt and I am gonna lay in bed all day.
    Anyways, I use these patches everyday on my neck. I sleep in them, and I have a heated mattress pad. I have very sensative skin, but they do not bother me in the least.
    I jokingly tell everyone I need to buy stock in this company seeing as how I am keeping them in business.
    Just my 2 cents worth.