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.
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. 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.
3. 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.
4. Art of Sport Recovery Cream
BEST FOR POST-WORKOUT
One of the most popular uses for pain relief cream is for post-workout recovery. Whether you’re lifting weights, playing a sport or going for a long run, your body takes a beating. Good pain-relief cream, like this one from Art of Sport, will speed up the recovery process, allowing you to exercise more often. It does this with simple ingredients – arnica and eucalyptus – that naturally reduce pain and nourish the tissue.
5. Venu Anti Cellulite & Relaxant Cream
Some muscle relaxants do double duty as anti-cellulite creams. This means the cream breaks down stubborn fat cells in the stomach, hips or buttocks and tightens the skin while simultaneously soothing the muscles. We like this one from Venu because it utilizes chamomile and capsicum – two natural, effective ingredients.
Capsicum is the main ingredient in hot chili peppers (seriously!), and when used in pain relief creams, it creates a warm, tingling sensation that calms the muscles.
6. 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.
7. Hemp Pain Relief Roll-On Gel
BEST NATURAL CREAM
Add muscle pain relief to Hemp’s quickly expanding list of uses. This roll-on muscle relaxant contains 300mg of pure hemp seed oil which translates to fast-acting, natural pain relief. It comes highly-rated with 4.9 stars and a handful of reviews from customers that were skeptical of hemp products until trying this gel. Roll some on before and after intense activity for best results.