We all feel muscle or joint soreness on a regular basis — whether you’re 19 or 90. The cause of the soreness can range from a hard workout, to arthritis, to simply sitting at the desk. Soreness and joint pain are often manageable with some slight discomfort, but at its worst, the pain can make simple activities such as walking a painful experience.
Luckily, there’s an affordable, easy way to soothe the soreness: muscle relaxant creams (a.k.a. analgesic). These topical solutions contain ingredients that either increase circulation by heating and then cooling, or deliver pain medication (salicylates) directly to the sore muscle via absorption. The ones we’ve reviewed work immediately but last for hours, a must-have requirement for our favorite creams.
As with any over-the-counter medication, there’s a wide range of products with some working far better than others. To help find a muscle relaxant cream that will actually get the job done, we’ve rounded up some of the best below.
(Note: while these are great over-the-counter options for general stiffness or sore muscles, if you suffer from severe pain it’s best to go see a doctor.)
1. Sombra Natural Pain Relieving Gel
If you’re in a hurry to get some easy pain relief, skip the rest and get this versatile, all-natural cream from Sombra. It comes highly recommended by users and other outlets alike, so you can trust that it really works. It doesn’t contain any alcohol, features a citrus scent you’ll actually want on your body (not the medicinal smell of many relaxant creams), and works for occasional soreness as well as pain from chronic conditions like fibromyalgia.
To apply the cream, take a dollop on your finger or a cotton ball and rub it into the painful area (just be sure to wash your hands after).
2. Penetrex Joint & Muscle Therapy Gel
BEST ROLL-ON TUBE
Penetrex has the best roll-on tube for your seriously achy joints and muscles. This gel goes on smoothly and provides instant relief. With active ingredients such as arnica, glucosamine, and vitamin B6, your muscles will be feeling soothed and relaxed every time you use it. Penetrex’s roll-on gel has a vanishing scent, is non-greasy, and paraben-free.
3. Noxicare Pain Relief Cream
BEST FOR CARPAL TUNNEL
Noxicare’s pain relief cream is great for soothing achy joints, helping with carpal tunnel, and providing relief for muscle pain. Fast acting and non-greasy, you can apply this cream easily for instant relief. Made from only all natural ingredients like turmeric, rosemary, ginger, willow bark, and boswella, this back to the earth topical cream will leave you feeling pain-free, no chemicals necessary. This creams aids with inflammation and has no odor.
4. Dr. Sayman’s Wonder Rub
BEST BOTANICAL BLEND
Dr. Sayman’s products work well on every ailment under the sun, and the Wonder Rub for muscle pains will provide you instant relief. Made with a botanical blend and 4% lidocaine, this cream is great for providing temporary relief for arthritis, back pain, knee pain, and nerve pain by providing help with stiffness and inflammation.
5. Bengay Pain Relief Cream
Bengay is a trusted pain relief brand that’s been around for over 120 years, and comes with a very manageable price tag under $7. If you use pain relief cream often, this is a good bet as you’ll end up spending less in the long-run. The cream’s main ingredients are camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate, which are strong and effective at quickly reducing pain, although not the most natural.
6. Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel
BEST FOR ARTHRITIS
This Biofreeze is another highly-recommended pain relief gel with over 1300 reviews and 4.4 stars on Amazon. Part of the reason it’s so well-reviewed is the easy roll-on design, meaning no messy hand-application and no massaging. This ease makes the gel great for frequent application due to arthritis. The roll on tube also provides a free massage with application if you roll it hard enough into your sore muscles.
7. Cramp 911 Muscle Relaxing Lotion
BEST FOR CRAMPS
For fast-acting muscle pain relief (i.e. a bad cramp), keep some of this aptly-named Cramp 911 on deck. It works in as little as 15 seconds, and with a roll-on bottle, it’s easy to apply too. It also lasts up to eight hours, so you can use it at night if muscle pain is keeping you up.