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Vascular Conductance is Reduced After Menthol or Cold Application

Olive, Jennifer L PhD; Hollis, Brandon MS; Mattson, Elizabeth MS; Topp, Robert PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: September 2010 - Volume 20 - Issue 5 - p 372-376
doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181e57bca
Original Research

Objective: To compare the effects of commercially sold menthol (3.5%) ointment and cold application on blood flow in the forearm.

Design: Prospective counterbalanced design.

Setting: University research laboratory.

Participants: Twelve (6 men and 6 women) college-aged students.

Interventions: Each participant had blood flow measured in the brachial artery for 5 minutes before and 10 minutes after menthol ointment or cold application to the forearm.

Main Outcome Measures: Blood velocity, arterial diameter size, and blood pressure were recorded during testing procedures. Vascular conductance was calculated based on these measures and used to describe limb blood flow.

Results: We observed a significant reduction (35%; P = 0.004) in vascular conductance within 60 seconds of menthol and cold application to the forearm. Vascular conductance remained significantly reduced for 10 minutes by approximately 19% after both menthol and cold application [F(2.313, 43.594) = 10.328, P < 0.0001]. There was no significant difference between conditions [F(1, 19) = 0.000, P = 0.945].

Conclusions: The application of a 3.5% menthol ointment significantly reduces conductance in the brachial artery within 60 seconds of application, and this effect is maintained for at least 10 minutes after application. The overall decline in conductance is similar between menthol ointment and cold application.

From the *Department of Exercise Science, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington; †Department of Exercise Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and ‡Department of Health & Sport Sciences; and §School of Nursing; University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

Submitted for publication March 24, 2010; accepted June 29, 2010.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Jennifer L. Olive, PhD, 5804 66th Ave W, University Place, WA 98467 (e-mail:

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