Pregnancy comes with a wide range of new experiences, including aches and pains in places you never expected. Determining which medications or over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are safe can feel like navigating a minefield. So when muscle pain or a sore back stops you in your tracks, can you reach for that Icy Hot to ease the pain?
The short answer: Icy Hot isn’t necessarily restricted, but not many studies have investigated its safety. Some providers think it’s OK; others think you should steer clear. Call your doctor for specific instructions.
Just like with any medication you might need to use during pregnancy, it’s important to always talk to your OB-GYN before you start using Icy Hot.
Still, you’ll find that physicians haven’t reached a consensus on whether pregnant women should use Icy Hot at all — even after the first trimester when most medical experts agree that select OTC medications should be safe for use. Not enough studies have focused on Icy Hot use among pregnant women to provide a conclusive answer.
The confusion around Icy Hot
While some physicians feel it’s safe to use Icy Hot as long as it isn’t used on the belly, others feel it shouldn’t be used at all. This is why it’s best to consult your physician before using it, so you can make an informed decision. Still, Icy Hot isn’t considered a restricted substance, and it’s generally regarded as safe to use throughout your pregnancy.
The conflict around Icy Hot is that its ingredients can be absorbed into your bloodstream and pass into the fetus. Some of its main ingredients include methyl salicylate (wintergreen oil), menthol, and camphor. The wintergreen oil provides a cool sensation followed by a warm one, while menthol and camphor also confer soothing properties.
Specifically, wintergreen oil may be of concern because it’s a salicylate — the same type of ingredient found in aspirin. Normally, wintergreen is considered safe when ingested in the quantities typically found in foods, even for pregnant women.
But there aren’t enough studies on its large-scale topical use among pregnant women to confirm its safety when used in larger quantities. That said, not all formulations of Icy Hot contain methyl salicylate, which adds to the confusion about whether this topical treatment is safe to use while pregnant.
If you have a known aspirin allergy, Icy Hot shouldn’t be part of your pregnancy pain management plan. Still, remember that not all versions of Icy Hot contain methyl salicylate. Therefore, a good recommendation is to avoid using Icy Hot that contains methyl salicylate if you’re pregnant and have an aspirin allergy.
If the thought of trying to find the right kind of Icy Hot to soothe your sore muscles has you feeling overloaded, don’t worry — we understand! There are other, physician-approved ways to help ease the aches and pains of pregnancy.
Check your posture
Even though your center of gravity is changing thanks to your expanding belly, make it a point to stand and sit up straight, as well as keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Also, focus on finding supportive chairs or investing in a good pillow to give your back support when you’re sitting or sleeping.
Use heat and cold safely
If Icy Hot is a no-go, go back to the basics by alternating between ice packs or heating pads on your back to soothe sore muscles. However, heating pads should be used at lower temperatures and wrapped in a towel to avoid causing burns.
Try holistic treatments
Massage and acupuncture can provide relief for some women who are experiencing pain in their backs, hips, shoulders, feet, or elsewhere during pregnancy. Be sure to find a licensed provider who has experience with prenatal patients.
Being pregnant isn’t an excuse to be sedentary. There’s evidence that low impact activities can help reduce back pain in pregnant women. Focus on gentle activities like walking or even aquatic exercises. Also, focus on stretching to help ease sore muscles.
Rethink your footwear
Even if you love sky-high heels and wore them often before pregnancy, that type of footwear will become unrealistic as you progress through the trimesters. Your center of gravity has changed, and high heels can increase your risk of falling. Opt for shoes with low heels and good arch support.
Know when to talk to your OB-GYN
While back pain is a common complaint during pregnancy, severe back pain or pain that lasts for weeks shouldn’t be ignored. Sometimes severe back pain can be a sign of preterm labor or even a urinary tract infection. So, if that constant twinge of pain doesn’t feel normal, talk to your physician.
It’s common to experience back pain or muscle aches while you’re pregnant, but make sure to talk to your doctor before using Icy Hot.
Even though physicians haven’t come to a consensus on whether Icy Hot can be used during pregnancy, some evidence suggests that — depending on the ingredients — it can be safe for some pregnant women who don’t have an aspirin allergy.
Regardless, there are other methods of pain relief and prevention that are safe in pregnancy and may help stop pain before you resort to Icy Hot. Remember to take care of your body, as growing a baby is a major job!