As I write in this month’s Harvard Men’s Health Watch, these so-called topical analgesics work best for more superficial joints like the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, and hands. “In those areas, the medication can penetrate closer to the joint,” says Dr. Rosalyn Nguyen, a clinical instructor in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.
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Warnings: For external use only. Avoid contact with eyes, mucous membranes, and broken or irritated skin. In case of accidental contact, flush with water. Keep out of the reach of children. If irritation occurs, discontinue use immediately. Do not tightly wrap or bandage or use with other topical preparations or heating pads. Consult a doctor if you are pregnant/nursing, under 12 years old, have sensitive skin, your condition persists or worsens, or excessive burning or irritation persists.
One reviewer describes the Penetrex cream as “magic in a jar,” saying that it helps her cope with back discomfort that doesn’t respond to other pain-treatment methods, whether massage or physical therapy. People say that the Penetrex cream has helped them while recovering from injury or surgery, but many also use it on a daily basis to alleviate arthritis pain as well as the normal but nagging aches that can spring up later in life.
Rolfing not only relieves physical muscle pain rooted in your fascia, but also improves your emotional well-being and energy. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your game or someone suffering with TMJ pain, chronic back pain or spine pain, rolfing is something worth exploring. It’s a potent natural painkiller that impacts your neuromuscular system in a positive, pill-free way.
Topical anti-inflammatories work in the same way but, instead of having an effect on all of the body, they only work on the area to which you have applied them. When they are applied they are taken into (absorbed into) your skin. They then move deeper into areas of the body where there is inflammation (for example, your muscle). They relieve pain and reduce swelling affecting joints and muscles when rubbed into the skin over the affected area. Using a topical preparation means that the total amount of anti-inflammatory in your body is very low. This in turn means that you are much less likely to have a side-effect to this medicine.
Laugh more often. One study showed that social laughter actually increases pain tolerance.5 Laughing along with others was shown to have the highest positive impact. Laughter has many positive effects, including increasing circulation and oxygen, and raising your body's level of endorphins (the body's natural pain killers). There is a whole movement called "laughter yoga"—which helps people enjoy the many benefits of laughter without having to need a reason to laugh—it just focuses on laughing for its own sake.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) machines are small, battery-powered devices that transmit low-voltage electrical currents through electrodes that are attached to your skin. Considered very safe, TENS machines, according to one theory, work by scrambling the message of pain to the brain — literally blocking it. Another theory suggests that the electrical impulses cause a release of endorphins that override the sensation of pain. Many back pain patients have had success with TENS machines, though their effectiveness has not been clearly proven in controlled studies. Ask your doctor or physical therapist if this therapy might be right for you.

“I am a musician and have been one for almost 40 years. With practice and performance comes pain, which sometimes becomes chronic. I manage it with body work and adjustments but I can’t always be around practitioners, especially when I am traveling. These pain relieving patches fill the void extremely well providing relief, very quickly without chemicals or drugs. Kudos to Luminas for developing them. Highly recommended!” – Rafe S.


Whether or not research can prove that massage therapy helps, many people report that it relaxes them and eases chronic pain. In a 2009 research review published in Spine, researchers reviewed 13 clinical trials on the use of massage in the treatment of back pain. The study authors concluded that massage "might be beneficial for patients with subacute and chronic nonspecific low back pain, especially when combined with exercises and education." The authors called for further studies that might help determine whether massage is a cost-effective treatment for low back pain.
"I love Elemental Herbs All Good Herbal Freeze with Arnica ($20; allgoodproducts.com) because the combination of menthol and arnica is incredibly cooling. Also, it's all-natural and super easy to just spray onto my sore areas. I also like Arnica Muscle and Joint Gel by Naturopathica ($28; naturopathica.com), which is a gel. You can rub it in and it really targets the sore muscles and joints." —Holly Rilinger, master Flywheel instructor, creator of LIFTED
Aspirin is now believed to target both the NF-kB and COX pathways. These agents inhibit the NF-kB pathway in endothelial cells and block NF-kB activation to inhibit leukocyte recruitment.[114,115,116] NSAIDs have also been found to inhibit both the COX system and the NF-kB pathway. Immunosuppressant drugs also reduce nuclear expression of NF-kB.[39,70,75] Research now indicates that blocking the activation of NF-kB along with other inflammation mediators [Table 2] is the major mechanism for reducing inflammation by natural compounds.

I’m not saying NSAIDs are useless. They have their place. If you’re recovering from surgery or a major injury, traditional over-the-counter pain relievers are good for controlling inflammation, swelling, and pain, but NSAIDs are far too powerful for over-the-counter, everyday use. Unlike a lot of natural pain relievers, NSAIDs also don’t address the cause of inflammation or pain; they just mask the symptoms.
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