Finally, the active ingredients within a pain relief cream interact with local nerve endings to damp down inflammation, reduce pain and swelling and ease stiffness. All these different actions make topical, rub-in creams and gels highly effective for treating painful joints, sore muscles and sport injuries. Here, I’ve reviewed what I believe are the best pain relief creams, sore muscle creams and pain relief gels.
I’ve just emphasized that Voltaren is mainly appropriate for shallow inflammation, but there is some evidence that Voltaren might be able to “reach deeper.” This is hardly the stuff of medical certainty yet, but researchers Huang et al found that Voltaren treated pain coming from deep inside the spine, right in the centre.6 They concluded that it could be a “convenient and safe clinical intervention” for a few types of back pain. An anti-inflammatory gel will likely fail with many kinds of back pain, but there’s also virtually no down-side to trying. See my low back pain tutorial for extremely detailed information about medications for back pain.

Pain, heat, redness, and swelling (dolor, calor, rubor, tumor) are the classic manifestations of the inflammatory process. Abnormalities of the joints of the spine, associated muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone structural abnormalities can all result in pain and need for neurosurgical consultations. Typically, patients will not require immediate surgical intervention, and therefore require treatments to reduce pain and enhance quality of life activities.[71]

Jackson, M., & Tummon Simmons, L. (2018, April 1). Challenging case in clinical practice: Improvement in chronic osteoarthritis pain with use of arnica oil massage, therapeutic ultrasound, and acupuncture — A case report [Abstract]. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 24(2), 60–62. Retrieved from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/act.2018.29152.mja?journalCode=act

Think of Voltaren® Gel as “ibuprofen in a gel.” (It’s actually diclofenac, but ibuprofen is a much more familiar drug name in North America, where the product is still fairly new, and available only with a prescription in the US.) It’s a topical anti-inflammatory medication,NSAID“Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug,” usually pronounced “en-sed.” and FDA-approved to treat osteoarthritis in “joints amenable to topical treatment, such as the knees and those of the hands.” The evidence shows that it “provides clinically meaningful analgesia.”1 This is an appealing treatment idea that actually works reasonably well: what a pleasure to be able to say that!2
Diclofenac is an extremely popular drug — again, we’re talking oral here — and it is associated with serious cardiovascular risks: “There is increasing regulatory concern about diclofenac. … Diclofenac has no advantage in terms of gastrointestinal safety and it has a clear cardiovascular disadvantage.”14 This has been in the news quite a bit, and NPR had a hit in 2013 with this headline: “World's Most Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk.”
Side effects from topical medications include redness, itching, and other skin irritation. They are generally mild—and uncommon. The cause of skin irritation is often the material used to make the cream or gel, not the NSAID, says Dr. Joanne Borg-Stein, medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Spaulding-Wellesley Rehabilitation Center in Massachusetts. When that happens, it’s possible for a pharmacist to create a preparation with ingredients that are less irritating to your skin.
Pro Therapy Supplies now has aromatherapy items as well. These essential oils are 100 percent pure and natural. We carry the most popular and useful scents. These include Ylang Ylang, Peppermint, Lavender, Chamomile, Tea Tree and many more. Add these to our massage oils and creams or use them on their own. In addition to our single note essential oils, we stock blends that are made with your specific needs in mind. Some of our blends include calming, relaxation, serenity and vitality.

It contains arnica, a wonderful pain reliever used by many massage therapists, vitamin B6 that makes red blood cells that produces neurotransmitters, homocysteine levels, and also makes the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine; it has pyridoxine; choline bitartrate cetyl myristoleate; MSM (methylsulfonlmethane) that helps with scars, stretch marks, and pain; and has glucosamine, and boswellia serrata.

“My husband and I prefer more natural, holistic pain relievers, and we were thrilled when we found Relief cream. We take it with us everywhere we go, use it religiously for joint pain, and recommend it to everyone we know. Relief is FAR superior to Biofreeze; there truly is NO comparison. Relief smells better, feels better, and just plain works better. Thank you so much for a natural alternative to pain medications that come with some really nasty 'side effects.'” *


Release your inner endorphins. Endorphins are the natural pain relievers produced by your body. They work by binding to the opioid receptors in your brain to block the perception of pain, similar to opioid pain medications, such as oxycodone or morphine. Spurring increased production of these natural hormones can substantially help reduce your pain, as well as produce profound feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.1
7) The indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase pathway controls complement-dependent enhancement of chemo-radiation therapy against murine glioblastoma. Li M, Bolduc AR, Hoda MN, Gamble DN, Dolisca SB, Bolduc AK, Hoang K, Ashley C, McCall D, Rojiani AM, Maria BL, Rixe O, MacDonald TJ, Heeger PS, Mellor AL, Munn DH, Johnson TS. J Immunother Cancer. 2014 Jul 7; PMID: 25054064
"There are three that I swear by. I use Icy Hot Roll-On ($5; walmart.com) on my feet at the end of the day after I do my exercises to stretch my feet. It's also great for traveling because it doesn't get messy! I like Salonpas Spray ($8; walmart.com) because it can get hard-to-reach places on my back or shoulder blades. And since Tiger Balm ($5; walmart.com) is strong, I use that when my legs are sore and I sleep with it on. I wake up the next morning and feel great." —Nicole Winhoffer, founder NW Method
In the case of topical creams, many individuals may suffer from allergies that they weren't even aware of until they encounter a negative reaction. These reactions can range in severity from mild skin irritation to more severe issues such as inflammation and increased pain. Remember to check all the ingredients for any topical medication you buy in order to avoid potential allergens and irritants.
It is a natural product which has been effectively used in the treatment of bone and muscle pain, in painful abnormalities resulting from spinal cord compression and as an analgesic medication following surgical interventions. It contains essential oils, alkaloid arnicine, glycosides, flavones, carotenes, mucilages and magnesia. Its main property is that it increases local blood flow due to its rubefacient effect, and its ability to relieve pain and improve muscle and nerve weakness. It is therefore very widely used for contusions, bumps, bruises, sprains, rheumatism, lower back pain, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and muscle pain.
Hi Patricia, Sorry to hear about your experience. The patient information leaflet for diclofenac gel inside each pack advises that users should avoid applying on large areas of skin, that an amount ranging in size from a 1 penny to a 2 pence piece will usually be sufficient, and not to use it if you are already taking NSAID tablets. High blood pressure is not listed as a possible side effect, as this was not detected in clinical trials. As you say, diclofenac tablets and other oral NSAIDs are now associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease which is why the gel is considered a better option. I have coverd this in a post about ibuprofen increasing blood pressure here. Research looking into the long-term tolerability of topical diclogenac gel in people with an elevated risk of NSAID-related side effects, such as existing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, suggests that the gel appears to be safe to use to treat osteoarthritis, even in these high risk groups. Having said that, everyone is different, due to the genes they have inherited, and you may have experienced an unusual, idiosyncratic reaction to the small amounts absorbed via the skin. It’s good that you or your doctor were monitoring your blood pressure to detect this. I have a website dedicated to lowering a high blood pressure, which includes lots of complementary approaches, that you may find helpful. Are you able to share the name of the herbal cream which you have found works better? Best wishes, Sarah B
Vitamins are essential to health. Every natural thing that you eat contains the vitamins needed for growth, repair, bone density, pH balance and hormone regulation. The problem is that many people don’t have access to organic whole foods, so vitamin supplementation is important. When suffering from inflammation, pain and arthritis, the following vitamins may help.
Perform vends this distinguished muscle rub cream, which carves its own niche amongst counterparts, principally for the impeccable effectiveness over persistent type muscle and tendon pains. The Non-NSAID graded salve is recommended for after training physiology refurbishing endeavor and is an indispensable elect for treating both minor and severe tissue lesion issue. It is crafted by availing the innate analgesic feature of Menthol and is judiciously sans Paraben. The muscle rub cream is also operative over arthritis and muscle redness and comes in a 4oz volume gel tube. It scales to an extent 1.5 x 2 x 6.2 inches and is vended in two more patterns of Roll-On and Spray.

The NF-kB molecule is a transcription factor that controls the transcription of DNA for the perpetuation of the inflammatory immune response. It acts as a switch to turn inflammation on and off in the body. NF-kB has the ability to detect noxious stimuli, such as infectious agents, free radicals, and other cellular injuries, and then directs DNA to produce inflammatory cytokines. The NF-kB proteins are localized in the cytoplasm of the cell and are associated with a family of inhibitory proteins known as inhibitor of kB (IkB).[43,119] The TNF-α, and especially IL-1b, can also directly stimulate enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases, which break down extracellular collagen matrix, a hallmark of inflammatory joint disease.[32,76,77] The IkB proteins are normally bound to NF-kB and block their nuclear localization signal. A variety of provoking stimuli can degrade the IkB and result in the nuclear translocation of NF-kB to be free to activate DNA synthesis of inflammatory cytokines [Figure 2].


Resveratrol is a plant-based polyphenol molecule that is found in various concentrations of many different plant sources. The plant is called Japanese Knot weed or Polygonum cuspidatum, and the skins of red wine grapes are believe to have the most concentrated amounts of resveratrol. In plants, resveratrol is generally found in the plant skin and acts as a phytoalexin to protect the plant from infection, excessive UV radiation and aide in general plant defense. Resveratrol has also been found to have significant anti-mutation, anti-inflammatory, antoxidant and DNA protective actions, when consumed by animals and humans.

Vitamins are essential to health. Every natural thing that you eat contains the vitamins needed for growth, repair, bone density, pH balance and hormone regulation. The problem is that many people don’t have access to organic whole foods, so vitamin supplementation is important. When suffering from inflammation, pain and arthritis, the following vitamins may help.


Arthritis is a painful and sometimes crippling condition that affects more than 50 million Americans. There are many different types of arthritis, but one thing sufferers all have in common is the desire for relief from the pain, swelling, and stiffness that typically accompany it. Fortunately, there are a host of over-the-counter creams that can help. While they may not work for every arthritis sufferer, there are many that can help.
“I was first introduced to Relief by my Chiropractor after I pulled a muscle. Later my son, while playing hockey, received a very nasty hit during a game and was given Biofreeze as part of his recovery process. I can tell you Relief is 10x better—he was still in pain after using the Biofreeze, so I grabbed the Relief and he could not believe the difference. Now we are a Relief ONLY household. I am spreading the word to all the other hockey mom’s on the quality of your product and how well it works. Thank you for creating Relief and keep up the good work.” *
Soft tissue therapies help treat the underlying causes of back pain, such as poor posture, muscular compensations, and weakness through manipulative, hands-on adjustments. These natural therapies can help “turn on” muscles that have been “turned off” due to past injuries and therefore eliminate added stress on painful parts of the back or legs. I recommend finding a practitioner who offers one of the following:
"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.)
Its active ingredients include eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil, but nothing that will heat up your skin or provide the icy, cooling sensation that some other arthritis creams do. It comes in a roller-ball format, which you use to massage the product into the skin. Devoted fans say it’s the best pain-relief cream on the market, and they love that it doesn’t come with a lingering medicinal scent.
If you are using a topical anti-inflammatory there is a risk that your skin can become sensitive to light (photosensitivity). If you are using a preparation that contains ketoprofen you should cover the area of skin where ketoprofen has been applied (to protect it from sunlight). Also, you should not use a sunbed, or expose your skin to sunlight during treatment, and for two weeks after stopping.
Cold and heat therapies. It's best to use cold compresses or an ice pack, not heat, immediately following a back injury, since this can alleviate pain by numbing the area and prevent or reduce swelling. About 48 hours after the onset of back pain, though, applying heating pads or a hot-water bottle to your back may be helpful. The warmth soothes and relaxes aching muscles and increases blood flow, which helps the healing process. Keep in mind that heat therapy is only helpful for the first week.

Meditate twice daily. Meditation comes in many varieties, some complex, others simple. One common approach is just to find a sound that is pleasing to you but has no particular meaning (like "som"), close your eyes, sit still and comfortably, and repeat the sound in your mind. When your thoughts wander, notice that they have wandered and return to your sound. If you feel your pain, notice the pain and return to your sound.
Spreading a medication on your skin is not the same thing as swallowing it. Because Voltaren Gel is applied to the skin, dramatically less medication reaches the bloodstream — only a tiny fraction of what you would get from oral usage.1516 It is safe to assume that cardiovascular risks of moderate topical use are negligible compared to oral diclofenac, because so much less medication is actually getting into general circulation, and that is what the evidence now shows.17 Multiple studies have concluded that topical NSAIDs are both effective and safe.181920
If you have an attack of lower-back pain that is severe, continuous and not improving, assessment and treatment by a health care professional who focuses on the back or other musculoskeletal problems may help. These practitioners may use both active and passive techniques to help you feel better. Examples of passive techniques that may be used to get you moving include:
A lot of people who read this are going to want to try it on their low back pain, neck pain, and/or other kinds of muscle pain. Will it work? The only honest answer is, “Who knows?” I have no clinical experience with this yet, and certainly it’s unstudied. It might be worth trying, in moderation, with the full awareness that there’s every possibility that it could be a waste of time and money.
studies and meta-analyses report a strong relationship between chronic pain and abnormalities in glucose metabolism. Insulin resistance and abnormal blood sugar pave the way for inflammatory pathways, resulting in chronic pain. Magnesium deficiency is another that comes to mind. Magnesium helps to block the brain’s receptors of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that may cause your neurons to become hypersensitive to pain. Intestinal integrity is one that many people don’t think to connect to their pain. However, high-quality food choices are crucial for managing pain due to the way they influence gut health. Substances in grains may increase intestinal permeability, allowing undigested food particles, bacteria, and other molecules to enter the bloodstream, which can influence inflammation and chronic pain.
Never use a topical product if you have open wounds, scratches, or broken skin to reduce risks. You don’t want to cover up these with Band-Aids. Never apply near your eyes or mucous membranes, including your private area. Be sure to follow the directions on the product. Using these products for too long can make you skin become sensitive and you might have an allergic reaction. If you use a patch and it starts to itch, burn, or your skin has a rash or is red, stop using it. You can use the product for a long time before your body becomes sensitive to one or more of the ingredients. If you have a reaction, see your healthcare provider at once. This can also happen with lotions, creams, sticks, roll-ons, and gels. Don’t keep adding more to your skin if the product doesn’t seem to work. More is not better.
The good news regarding back pain is this: Most cases of lower back pain are believed to be due to “mechanical” problems of the musculoskeletal system rather than serious illness or chronic health problems. Abnormalities, weakness, and added stress placed on the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles can all contribute to back problems. It’s been found that the most common causes of low back pain (there are many!) include: (8)

Research has shown that the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are some of the most effective natural anti-inflammatory agents available.[12,23–25,27,50,85] With the discovery that vascular inflammation is the underlying cause of coronary artery disease, fish and fish oil supplements are now recommended by the American Heart Association for the prevention of this disease.[12,23–25,27,50,85] Countries that have the highest fish consumption also have a lower incidence of neurodegenerative disease and depression.[12,23–25,27,50,85] The biological basis for the effectiveness of fish oil in treating arthritis has been well documented with many positive clinical studies, when compared to traditional pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory agents.[12,23–25,27,50,85]
Boswellia serrata is a traditional Indian Ayurvedic remedy for inflammatory conditions. It is extracted from the gum of the Indian boswellia tree and has been in use for centuries to treat joint pain and inflammation. It provides anti-inflammatory activity in areas where there is chronic inflammation by turning off the pro-inflammatory cytokines that begin the inflammatory process. Moreover, research shows that the acids contained within boswellia extract stop the formation of immune cells known as leukotrienes, which are responsible for inflammation. This then allows blood to flow unobstructed to the joints for healing and improved mobility.
Alternate warm and cold. Try alternating soaks in warm and cold water, especially if you have swelling. Fill one sink with cold water (65 degrees Fahrenheit) and another with warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Leave your hands or feet in the warm water for five to 10 minutes, and then switch to cold for one minute. Return to the warm for three to four minutes, and then switch to cold for another minute. Repeat this four or five times.
Natural remedies, on the other hand, are made from the stuff of nature. This includes leaves, twigs, berries, bark, roots, vines, vitamins and minerals. They are natural substances that can’t be regulated by the FDA because they are technically foodstuffs. If you understood herbology you could, as many traditional cultures do, adjust your diet to include the herbals in your meals. However, for painful and chronic conditions, like arthritis, this would mean at every meal. Taking these ingredients as supplements to your diet is the way to go.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have a medical condition.

Five updates have been logged for this article since publication (2009). All PainScience.com updates are logged to show a long term commitment to quality, accuracy, and currency. more Like good footnotes, update logging sets PainScience.com apart from most other health websites and blogs. It’s fine print, but important fine print, in the same spirit of transparency as the editing history available for Wikipedia pages.

Customers say that while they were skeptical at first, they are pleasantly surprised by just how well this lotion from Two Old Goats works to relieve arthritis pain. Its name come from its key ingredient—goat’s milk—which is blended with essential oils, including lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and eucalyptus in a formula designed to penetrate deep into your joints and muscles. All those oils also act as a moisturizer so it keeps your skin looking great too, and the pump bottle makes it easy to dispense.
Green tea research now demonstrates both anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effects. Additionally, green tea research includes the “Asian paradox”, which theorizes that increased green tea consumption in Asia may lead to significant cardiovascular, neuroprotective and cancer prevention properties.[113] The usual recommendation is 3–4 cups of tea a day. Green tea extract has a typical dosage of 300–400 mg. Green tea can cause stomach irritation in some, and because of its caffeine content, a decaffeinated variety is also available; but the polyphenol content is currently unknown.[2,49,53,108,112,117,120]
The usual dosage of standardized turmeric powder is 400–600 mg taken three times per day.[13] Side effects are few, but with extended use, this agent can cause stomach upset, and in extreme cases gastric ulcers may occur at very high doses. Caution should be used if the patient is taking anticoagulant medications or high doses of nonsteroidal drugs. Studies have shown that curcumin may be used in combination with lower doses of nonsteroidal medications.[7–9,11,21,40,87,111,121]

Despite what a majority of people may have been made to believe concerning the issue of anti-inflammatory creams and the pain-relieving creams the truth is that the two types of creams differ immensely. Pain relief creams serve the important function of disrupting the transmission of pain signals from different parts of the body to the brain thus allowing you to feeling a sense of temporary pain relief. However, most cream pain relievers would not have elements that would help reduce inflammation or swelling. Nevertheless, the anti-inflammatory creams and the pain relief creams both can be used for arthritis flare-ups and dealing with minor sports injuries. Nevertheless, for those people who may have never used these types of medications before or those who may not be sure of the type to use it is important to consult with the doctor before using such a product. Most all, never use the anti-inflammatory creams on a child or expectant mother unless who check in with your doctor.


Arnica montana is a flowering mountain herb with a long history of traditional use in pain relief. Arnica extracts contain numerous pain reliefing ingredients, including sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids which reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, plus thymol which fights infection. Arnica cream, gel and ointment is used to ease muscle pain and spasm, insect bites, superficial burns – including sunburn – sprains and painful joints caused by arthritis or other rheumatic disorders. Herbal arnica products contain measurable levels of active ingredients, while homeopathic arnica products contain lower levels that work in a different way. Research shows that arnica products are as effective at relieving painful joints as ibuprofen gel when applied two to four times a day.
This product treats various types of pain. It’s great for stiffness, bruises, and sprains, and it may be the best pain relief cream for back pain. It’s not smelly, and it relieves pain associated with cramps. This cream rubs into the skin quickly, making it ideal for those who are irritated by aches and pains throughout the day. Carry this pain relief cream in your purse or bag to use as needed.
Curcumin is the bioactive compound in turmeric that gives the herb its healing properties. It’s one of the safest anti-inflammatories you can take, and is an effective natural pain reliever too — even for severe pain. In fact, curcumin matches or outperforms ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and other over-the-counter painkillers without any side effects.[12]
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