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Dealing with aches and pains can really put a cramp in your day and may even affect your mood. And while it is easy to take an over-the-counter pain pill such as Ibuprofen, it doesn’t always bring the pain relief you need. However, there is a wide variety of over-the-counter pain relief creams and gels that can be applied directly to the affected area.
As a product review website, we can’t provide medical advice, and we always recommend consulting healthcare professionals if you’re dealing with chronic pain and considering trying a new pain relief treatment. Shopping for the best pain relief creams can be difficult, and a medical professional can help you find the right treatment for your needs.
Topical pain relief medications can be an excellent option for individuals with acute musculoskeletal pain, says Rebecca Abraham RN, president of Acute on Chronic LLC, a healthcare service that provides patients with educated guidance to cannabis and alternative pain relief therapies. Abraham says these over-the-counter pain relief creams can bring great relief for ailments such as arthritis, sprains or sore muscles, among other forms of chronic pain, she says.
Furthermore, in addition to pain relief creams and gels, some transdermal patches can provide relief. Most patches are designed to treat a specific part of the body, and many of them combine OTC medications with heat therapy. Finally, many people suffering from chronic pain use CBD oils as an alternative (or in addition to) traditional treatments.
What ingredients should I look for? When putting together this guide to popular pain relief creams, we looked for products that contained known analgesics such as:
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
Many of these analgesics have been used in medicine for hundreds of years or longer, and many popular OTC pain creams use these ingredients.
With so many options for pain relief, how do you find the best option for you? As per usual, we aren’t doctors, and we would strongly advise our readers to consult their physician about any new treatments, especially when it comes to chronic pain. To help narrow down the list, we’ve put together a list of some of the best pain relief creams, gels, patches and CBD oils for dealing with everyday aches and pains.
Pain Relief Creams & Gels
The best pain relief creams typically contain one of the ingredients mentioned above, most often menthol or lidocaine. Menthol provides a cooling sensation, while lidocaine helps number the parts of your body that are hurting. These analgesics are common treatments for pain around the world, and many of these pain creams cost just $10.
1. Bengay Lidocaine Cream
Bengay is the name that many of us know when it comes to topical analgesics. And this iteration uses lidocaine, a common active ingredient in many of the best pain relief creams and gels. Lidocaine is a mild anesthetic that works by blocking the signals at the nerve endings in the skin, thus temporarily relieving some types of pain. This cream can be used for back, neck, shoulder, knee, elbow, hand, joint pain and backaches. And instead of the typical medication odor associated with topical products, this cream has a soothing jasmine fragrance. Also, no worries about it leaving a residue on your clothes as it is a non-greasy formula.
2. Icy Hot Max
Icy Hot is also a household name and one of the best pain relief creams you can buy over-the-counter. Its lidocaine cream-based product can be used for foot, back, muscle, knee and arthritis pain. You can start to feel relief within minutes from its combination of lidocaine and menthol. It can be used every 6-8 hours, but you shouldn’t use this cream more than three times in 24 hours.
Some people like cold treatment for pain. Unlike other pain relief creams with a cooling effect, Bio-Freeze gel skips waxes, oils, aloe and petroleum ingredients so that it goes on without being greasy. This formula contains 4% menthol, which provides an intense cooling effect that targets your achy back, neck, shoulder, knee, hand, wrist, elbow, foot or ankle. It is also available in a roll-on formula so that you can keep your hands mess-free.
4. AlevX Pain Relief Lotion
With soothing camphor and menthol, this AleveX topical pain reliever lotion was created to help alleviate pain from strains, bruises, sprains and backache. It is created by the company that makes the popular medication Aleve, which is another popular OTC painkiller taken to fight pain and inflammation. It is also available in a rollerball and spray.
CBD Oils for Pain Relief
CBD, or Cannabidiol, has been around for a long time, but its popularity has grown in the last five years after new FDA rules cleared the way for legal hemp-derived products that don’t get you high. Since then, CBD products have exploded in popularity, and many people use them to treat their chronic pain, anxiety sleeplessness, and tons more maladies. Even the CBD for pets market is booming. These products are still very new, and we can’t speak to their effectiveness from a medical perspective. However, we did ask Abraham about her experience in this field.
“Currently in research, there are about 30 therapeutic uses for cannabis and CBD,” says Abraham. “CBD cream works great for pain caused by inflammation, sore muscles, and eczema,” she says. But Abraham also advises that you should consult with a cannabis-friendly health care provider, cannabis nurse, or dosage specialist to figure out what is right for you. Additionally, you want to vet the business before buying its products. “Look for companies that transparently provide third-party lab testing results to ensure the products have real cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and terpenes, the essential oils of cannabis.” Full Spectrum CBD includes .3% or less of THC, the illegal and psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Again, we can’t speak to the medical effectiveness of CBD, but we can tell you which CBD pain relief products SPY editors use in our own lives.
A-System makes one of our favorite vitamin subscription services for men, but the company also makes some of our favorite men’s skin care products, pain relievers and CBD products. One of the brand’s best creations is the Radical Relief Gel Roll-On. A-System designed this roll-on pain relief gel to help with inflammation, muscle aches and arthritis. The formula contains 300 mg of CBD as well as Methyl Salicylate (a known analgesic), Pinus Pinaster Bark and Arnica Montana Oil, a botanical that’s sometimes used for pain relief.
We had the chance to test out this roll-on gel, and we were impressed with the effects, which our product tester said kicked in almost immediately. Of course, your experience may vary, but overall, we would highly recommend this product as one of the top pain relief creams for sale in 2021.
6. Theraone by Therabody
Therabody is the company behind the popular line of Theragun massage guns, but last year the company also launched its own CBD product line, TheraOne. The TheraOne Recover lotion is designed to help you recover after a workout that might have challenged your body. In addition to 300 mg full-spectrum CBD, it also contains essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus and lemon balm oils, which are often used in massage oils to bring on a sense of calm. Additionally, Theraone Recover CBD Lotion has been third-party tested. If you’re looking for the best pain relief creams with CBD, this is an excellent option to consider.
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Most transdermal patches are designed to treat pain via heat therapy. There are many types of heat patches, from chemical heat packs to heat wraps you can stick in the microwave. Transdermal patches are designed to deliver medication to your body through the skin, often combined with a sensation of heat for maximum relief.
7. Aspercreme Pain Relieving Warming Patch
If you have ever had the displeasure of experiencing back pain, then you may have considered using some type of warming patch. This particular product combines heat therapy with the active ingredient capsaicin, and it can be applied directly to the affected part of your body. This pain relief patch lasts up to eight hours. Make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions before using this product.
While Aspercreme is a cream patch, Salonpas uses gel-patch technology with waves of heat to treat shoulder, upper and lower back pain. It has capsaicin as well but it also contains menthol for a cooling effect. It’s designed to offer up to eight hours of relief. As with Aspercreme, you should follow the manufacturer’s directions and take care when using heat or cold therapy products.