Gels are less messy than creams because they tend to be less greasy. Water-based gels are also hydrating for the skin. Creams may be more difficult to get off your hands when you’re done applying but are good for massaging affected areas. However, some people feel that creams provide additional hydration and that the increased time it takes to rub most creams in actually allows it to penetrate deeper into the sore muscles and tissues. It really comes down to personal preference.
If you’re sensitive to aspirin, or if you’re taking any over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory drugs (like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen), you should avoid willow bark. You should also avoid taking it if you’re taking warfarin (Coumadin) or other anticoagulant treatments, as salicin could increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking willow bark if you’re taking other anti-inflammatory or pain medications.
“I use Relief cream on every client who comes in with any type of pain, and they all say they absolutely love the fragrance (as do I) and how it feels on their skin—in addition to how well it relieves their pain. It is the ONLY topical pain cream I would even think of using (and having on my hands) all day long, and with its non-irritating ingredients I can do so worry free. I have never had anyone I have used it on or sold it to complain of any type of negative skin reaction to the product, which I find amazing since with most ever other product of its kind you run a significant risk of experiencing secondary skin irritation. As you can imagine I couldn't be happier with Relief's amazing formulation and superior results!” *
The Inactive ingredients are aloe barbadensis leaf extract, arnica Montana flower extract, Actium lappa root (burdock) extract, boswellia carterii resin extract, calendula officinalis extract, carbomer, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, camphor, glycerin, ilex paraguariensis leaf extract, isopropyl alcohol, isopropyl myristate, melissa officinalis (lemon balm) leaf extract, silica, tocopheryl (vitamin E) acetate, triethanolamine, water, blue 1, and yellow 5. Ilex is a skin protectant for topical skin barrier gels and lotions designed to protect the skin from harmful irritants such as urine and feces. It usually contains good things such as corn starch, white petroleum jelly, and zinc oxide.
"I love to make my own home remedy to soothe sore muscles by adding 1-2 cups of Minera Dead Sea Salt ($42; sfsalt.com) and 5-8 drops of lavender essential oils to my bath. This combination draws out toxins, calms the parasympathetic system and helps aching muscles, while easing swelling and improving blood circulation. Afterwards, I'll apply some coconut oil to soothe dry skin.' —Nikki Warren, co-founder Kaia FIT
"Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt ($5; target.com) is a must-have for my sore muscles. Aside from the fact that baths are relaxing and stress relievers, adding Epsom salt helps your body absorb and replenish magnesium levels that are depleted when you're stressed. Weekly Epsom salt baths are huge for my overall well-being!" —Anna Victoria, creator of the Fit Body Guides (Next, check out the sweat-proof makeup trainers can't live without.)
Traditional wisdom says that NSAID pain relievers only damage your gut lining if you take them every day for a long time, but recent research disagrees. High-level athletes with stress-related intestinal damage tried taking ibuprofen to improve muscle soreness and recovery. Ibuprofen ended up damaging their gut lining even further after just a couple weeks; it increased inflammation and made their original pain issues worse. In fact, a single dose of aspirin can significantly increase your intestinal permeability.