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.
While these are not the only risks NSAID medications, they are somewhat more common, and some of the more worrisome, side effects. It is always safest to have a discussion with your physician if you have any concerns about the risk of taking these medications. It is important to understand that even in healthy people without underlying medical conditions, there is always the risk associated with any medication. The benefits of taking an anti-inflammatory medication need to be balanced with the possible risks of taking the medication.
I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com
If you’ve got a taste for hot stuff, you likely know some level of pain is involved. Interestingly, though, hot foods like wasabi and cayenne pepper can actually act as natural painkillers. Cayenne pepper benefits include several types of natural pain relief. The powerful pepper actually helps alleviate post-operative pain, including pain relief after a mastectomy or amputation.
Customers attest to the fact that it relieves pain immediately, and say it’s a good staple to have in your medicine cabinet to treat all kinds of aches and pains beyond arthritis as well. They like that it’s not greasy, doesn’t burn and rubs in easily. Some say it works better than pills because you can apply it directly to the areas that are experiencing pain, and they love that it doesn’t have the medicinal smell of some other pain-relief creams.
In October 2007, diclofenac sodium 1% gel (Voltaren Gel) became the first topical NSAID for OA therapy approved in the United States following a long history of use internationally. Topical diclofenac sodium 1% gel delivers effective diclofenac concentrations in the affected joint with limited systemic exposure. Clinical trial data suggest that diclofenac sodium 1% gel provides clinically meaningful analgesia in OA patients with a low incidence of systemic AEs.
Magnesium supplements can help curb the pain of migraines, muscle spasms and fibromyalgia. “It’s really easy to be magnesium deficient,” Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told WebMD. Heavy consumption of alcohol lowers magnesium levels. “The foods that are highest in magnesium are things like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Most of us just don’t eat those very often.”
Joints are complicated structures that “rely on bone, muscle, and ligaments all working together to provide a full range of motion,” says Holly Lucille, a Los Angeles-based naturopath. Understanding the source of your joint pain or inflammation is important, she adds, in order to pinpoint the most effective remedy. It could be an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, but in other cases, food sensitivities can be the culprit.
The processes used to prepare herb-derived compounds pose complications when it comes to determining the quantity and concentration of the products.[30,63,102] The preparation processes are not standardized, and therefore, the extraction process and the type of plant used may affect the true concentration of the product. In addition, there is a lack of uniformity within and between manufacturers. Although dietary supplements are not held to the same rigorous testing and standards as pharmaceutically derived medications in the US, there are many regulations that still control their manufacture because these are food products.
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
Capsicum is an extract from the chilli or cayenne pepper which reduces pain by continuously stimulating nerve endings in the skin at a very low-level. This depletes nerve endings of neurotransmitter chemicals so they become less sensitive and pass on fewer pain messages to the brain. Those messages that are passed on tend to get screened out as they brain shuts off distracting, low-level irritation. Ingredients that do this are known as ‘counterirritants’. These effects also reduce sensation from underlying painful joints. See the best capsicum containing rubs at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. Warning! These are HOT to use, but really relieve muscle and joint pain. Wash your hands thoroughly after use and do them rub your eyes by mistake during use.
"I'm really big on heat, since it draws blood to the spot that is heated. I am a huge fan of ThermaCare Heatwraps ($8; drugstore.com) since you can just wrap or tape them on and go about your life (I really like and recommend using one at night if you have a knot, or an especially tight spot)." —Heidi Kristoffer, creator of CrossFlowX (Got PMS cramps? Kristoffer shares the best yoga poses to ease aches and bloating.)
Topical diclofenac gel (Voltarol) is highly effective for treating muscle and joint aches and pains. In fact, a direct comparison of topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory diclofenac gel with an oral equivalent did not show any difference in their ability to reduce pain and stiffness. Data from 34 studies, involving over 7,600 people, suggests that the topical NSAID, diclofenac, is the most effective form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkiller for applying to the skin to treat muscle and joint pain.
A 2008 study published in the journal Spine found "strong evidence that acupuncture can be a useful supplement to other forms of conventional therapy" for low back pain. After analyzing 23 clinical trials with a total of 6,359 patients, the study authors also found "moderate evidence that acupuncture is more effective than no treatment" in relief of back pain.
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.
Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.
People with sensitive skin, infants, children, pregnant women, and seniors might be at a higher use using these products. People with kidney problems or kidney failure in the past shouldn’t try an Ibuprofen cream. If you take aspirin, prescribed blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) or have bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract, consult your healthcare provider before using these topical pain products. Do not use salicylates that cause blood to be thinner.
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.
Have your friend or partner give you a relaxing massage for your tired sore muscles at the end of the day and you do the same for them. Aging, as many know, is not too kind giving us cellulite, sagging skin, wrinkles, and other things we despise. Muscles are not as taunt and tight as they were when we were younger. And, the young people can keep their youthful appearance with this cream.
Turmeric. This spice has been used to relieve arthritis pain and heartburn, and to reduce inflammation. It's unclear how turmeric works against pain or inflammation, but its activity may be due to a chemical called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is usually safe to use, but high doses or long-term use may cause indigestion. Also, people with gallbladder disease should avoid using turmeric.