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Topical Pain Relief: Do Topical Pain Relief Creams & Gels Really Work?

Those who suffer from medical problems can often find relief in topical pain treatments. There exists on the market, many types of topical pain relief medication, from creams and gels to foams and roll-on sticks.

These products provide an alternative to swallowing pain reliever pills, such as Tylenol and aspirin. Many of those who suffer from joint pain, arthritis, and sports-related injuries, seek temporary relief from topical pain reliever creams and gels as their go-to pain relief treatment.

Unlike pain relief pills, which work from the inside of your body, topical treatments is pain medication that is less invasive. Creams and gels work from the surface of the skin, by providing a heating or cooling sensation to the area in need. Often, topical pain relief treatments contain a few common elements. There are also many active ingredients used in topical medications.

Active Ingredients


Common in cough drops and other throat treatments, menthol creates a cooling effect on the skin. Menthol slightly inflames the skin surrounding the area in need, encouraging blood flow.

This, in turn, increases the rate of recovery in some instances. The cooling sensation can also be pleasant for the feeling of relief to the area in question.

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A wax-like substance, found in evergreen trees, camphor is used for its scent and absorbing qualities. It produces a slight warm or cool sensation and is readily absorbed by human skin.

This makes it a good conduit for medical treatments.

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Used for creating a sensation of heat, capsaicin is derived from spicy peppers. The Capsaicin is the element which makes chili peppers, jalapenos and ghost peppers so spicy to the human tongue.

When used for pain relief, it can be quite effective.

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Methyl Salicylate

Also called, Oil of the Wintergreen, methyl salicylate creates a warming sensation. Methyl salicylate is found commonly in aspirin and used for pain relieving effects. It is also found in mints and chewing gum, and when applied to the skin, the oil is absorbed to create the feeling of heat.

Some studies suggest that it is more of a counter-irritant than a cure. However, for those looking for acute pain relief, it has been known to be quite effective.

Good For…

Topical gels and creams can be very helpful in relieving joint and muscle pain that originates close to the skin. Those who suffer from foot, ankle and hand stiffness may benefit, especially. Below are common issues for which to use a topical pain relief gel or cream.

Does It Work?

Topical gels and creams have been said to be effective. However, it behooves one to be scrupulous in researching the different products available. There is little scientific proof to show that heat therapy or cold therapy bare much medical credence, from a medical standpoint. For this reason, some over-the-counter products can contain low-quality ingredients.

That being said, heat therapy and topical treatments are recommended by many medical professionals and physical therapists for immediate and ongoing pain relief. The question in more about product quality, than treatment validity.

Chronic Pain

A great benefit of topical gels and creams is the non-invasive nature of the treatment. For those suffering from chronic pain, ask your doctor to recommend an appropriate non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for topical use.

Chronic pain.

They are also good for those at risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Topical treatments have the added benefit of causing fewer instances of internal bleeding, due to invasive pill treatments. Topical pain relief can be found as a prescription or an over-the-counter remedy.

Gels, such as the Diclofenac gel and Voltaren, can be prescribed by your practicing physician. Other gels and creams, such as ​Penetrex Pain Relief Medication​ can be found at over-the-counter drugstores. Ask your doctor which option is right for you.

Reliable OTC Pain Relief Creams And Gels

For those who are seeking immediate relief for a minor injury, your local drugstore will have several products to choose from. If you require medical attention, do not seek an OTC remedy. Instead, contact your doctor or go to a local ER for help. However, for minor strains, sprains, arthritis and acute pain, these products are reliable and commonly available.

[easyazon_link identifier="B0026HDURA" locale="US" tag="damnawesomego-20"]Penetrex Pain Relief Medication[/easyazon_link]
  • Bengay Pain Relieving Cream - For use in the relief of sore muscles, aching bones, and general pain by reducing inflammation. This product contains salicylates, camphor, and menthol, giving it both warming and cooling effects. Found at most Walgreens, CVS stores, and general drug stores
  • Icy Hot Vanishing Gel - This product is great for those who have sensitivity to strong aromas. The Vanishing quality of this product, means that the menthol smell will dissipate quickly. The active ingredients in the Icy Hot Vanishing Gel are menthol and salicylates. These create an initial sensation of cold, followed shortly after by a sensation of heat
  • Aspercreme Topical Analgesic Cream - For those who do not want any scent at all in their treatment, this product is odor-free. Aspercreme Topical Analgesic Cream contains no counterirritants. The only active ingredient is salicylates, making this a great option for those who have extra-sensitive skin

Safe To Use

When using a topical pain relief gel or cream, it is important to remember some basic principles, as to get the most beneficial effects from the treatment. Those who wish to use a topical treatment should always read the label and product directions in full before applying treatment.

In case the label does not indicate it, never treat an open wound or cut with a topic pain relief gel or cream. In addition, do not use a heating pad in conjunction with a topical treatment. This would increase the likelihood of receiving burns on the area treated.

Do not apply topical pain relievers to an area which will be underneath a tight bandage or wrapping as it could cause irritation or burning of the skin. Finally, always wash your hands after using a topical product, so as to avoid getting the medication in your eyes or mouth. It is very important to check with your doctor before use if you are allergic to aspirin or taking blood thinners.

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