Does Icy Hot Help Runners Knee? Here’s How

Runners knee is infamously known among runners, as it can come on quickly to derail any of your immediate training plans. There are multiple methods to treat such an injury, and items like Icy Hot have made a name for offering some sort of relief.

If applied correctly, Icy Hot can cool down muscles in an afflicted area with pain like runners knee, which could numb or ease immediate pain, but there is little evidence to suggest that it will provide any practical recovery benefits.

There are some more variables to consider that might help you decide if Icy Hot is the treatment option for you, so let’s dive in.

Does Icy Hot Help Runners Knee?

Does Icy Hot Help Runners Knee

What is Runner’s Knee?

Otherwise known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, runner’s knee is closer to a “catch-all” term for when runners experience pain in or around the knees.

More specifically, runners knee deals with pain on or inside of the kneecap due to an irritated or inflamed patella tendon.

The patella tendon is responsible for stabilizing and aligning the knee whenever it strikes the ground, and this movement is more pronounced during a high-impact activity like running.

Knee Joint

The repetitive stress from running can mean a lot of pressure put onto your knees, which is a problem spot for many runners, especially if they tend to heel strike.

This is not a PSA to say stop heel striking though, as many runners have few issues with their heel striking gait cycle, and trying to switch your foot strike to something as extreme as the forefoot would mean a long adjustment period with an increased risk of injury in areas like the foot, achilles, and calves.

Rather, we will seek to strengthen and refine your current gait cycle so you can be a more physically durable and robust runner.

Oftentimes, runners knee is a symptom of a strength or mobility issue in another area of your body (like the hips and/or ankles).

Before doing anything else, make sure you are wearing the proper footwear to match your gait cycle. If you’d like to know more about proper footwear for runners, check this article out.

Spain misalignment

A general example of misalignment.

With all of that said, strengthening and gaining mobility in your glutes, hips, and ankles are essential to preventing injuries in the sport of running (along with a manageable and intelligent training program).

Let’s take a look at how yoga can help strengthen these areas and help your runner’s knee.

What Is Icy Hot and How Does It Work?

Icy hot most commonly comes as a cotton patch or topical cream, it is generally made up of 5% Menthol. It is marketed as a pain relief for general discomfort in muscles and joints.

Essentially, Icy Hot Patches contain only menthol. Because there are plenty of menthol receptors in the body you will experience a general cooling throughout the area you’ve applied the patch of cream.

This is most likely due to evaporative loss of menthol on the skin.

Back pain

Furthermore, menthol plays a direct role in reducing blood circulation, so when you apply icy hot, you can anticipate a reduction in skin blood flow.

If you give Icy Hot 30-45 minutes then you will notice a general cooling of the muscles in the area of application, but this means blood circulation will drop.

Because of this, you will probably experience pain relief, but this might actually slow the overall recovery process.

Does Icy Hot Help Runners' Knees?

Icy Hot will most likely relieve your immediate pain that stems from your runner’s knee, this can be great for situations when you need something to take the edge off, but are planning to soon take some time off to rest and recover from your injury.

On the other hand, Icy Hot is not going to be an effective long-term solution to your runners knee, as it does not provide any practical healing benefits on a physiological or structural level.

Because of its cooling effect, this will decrease blood flow and most likely slow your recovery process.

So things are not looking great for Icy Hot as a prolonged recovery tool to help runners' knees, but that does not mean it will not serve a specific purpose if you are looking for a “quick fix”.

How Icy Hot Can Help

Even though Icy Hot will not help your runners knee in the long term, you can use this product as a means to mask the pain if you are near to reaching a big training goal and need something to take the edge off in order to complete your goal.

An example of this would be if you are a week out from the big marathon you’ve been training for and then come down with some runners knee pain.

While the smart thing to do would be to chill out, relax, and allow for recovery, we runners are probably not going to do that.

So in this case, Icy Hot might be a great product to try as a means of masking your pain to get you through a week of running and ultimately your marathon.

All of that being said, we are not actually recommending you do that, but we can be pragmatic and recognize that you will take some time off after your marathon to heal from all of this pain anyway.
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Alternative Treatment Options

Strength Training

Integrating 2-3 days of strength training into your week of training is probably the best way of preventing injuries like runners knee, as this will fill in many of the muscle imbalances and reinforce your structural integrity.

It does not have to be long and complicated though.

Stick to compound muscle movements including:

  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Carry

3 sets of 6-8 repetitions with a relatively heavy weight and good form. This will go a long way in improving your running performance and injury prevention.

Anti Inflammatory Medication

There are a couple of options that you can give a try. The tried and true option is ibuprofen, which can be quite effective if taken correctly.

Ibuprofen will serve to decrease inflammation globally around your body and can provide pain relief and some practical recovery, as it will decrease inflammation.

 Another option to try for runners knee is diclofenac topical gel, especially for an injury as local as runners knee. It is an anti-inflammatory gel that you can apply to the exact area of pain for relief and recovery. 

It works quite well and you can get this at any pharmacy right next to the over-the-counter pain relief medication like ibuprofen.
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Heat Towels

Heat Towels are a great way to actually increase your muscle temperature to increase blood flow to a specific area, although they are often not particularly comfortable, as the heat required to generate blood flow can be pretty hot.

Make sure you leave a couple of dry towels in between your knee/quad and the heated towel, as it could cause some burns.

Does Icy Hot Help Runners Knee? Conclusion

Icy Hot will probably not be the most effective treatment for your runners knee, but it can offer some pain relief to get you through a short period of training time leading into a break.

You can try pairing icy hot with strength training, cross-training, and anti-inflammatory medication to have the best results with recovery and pain relief.

 Finally, trust what your body is telling you, and work hard to prevent an injury like runners knee by training intelligently, strengthening your body, and taking the time to recover properly.


Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Me.

Last update on 2023-01-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API