Most of these gels and creams won’t cure your ailment. You’ll probably run into countless negative reviews of products from people that complain that their pain is not gone. These types of products are not a cure. Pain relief creams and gels are a helpful way to reduce pain. With acute pain, these gels and creams help users get relief until treatment can occur. In the case of a sprained ankle or torn muscle, for instance, using this kind of medicine can be a good alternative to NSAIDs to help reduce pain. For chronic ailments like arthritis, these substances are merely a way to help sufferers cope with pain. They are a band-aid. Some aches and pains may be helped with further treatment but don’t expect miracles with these types of products. Just because they don’t completely remove pain doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful in some instances and for some people.
"Having excess weight pulling on your back all day (except when you're lying down) is just bad news for your back," says Lauri Grossman, DT, a licensed chiropractor in private practice in New York City. "Often times, when people who wrestle with back pain for a lifetime lose a few pounds, they find that the pain that they've taken a million medications for and a million vitamins for just goes away." If you're having trouble shedding extra pounds, consider consulting with a registered dietitian or personal trainer.
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.

Authors of a 2016 review published in Seminars in Arthritis & Rheumatism conclude, “Topical NSAIDs have a moderate effect on pain relief, with efficacy similar to that of oral NSAIDs, with the advantage of a better risk:benefit ratio.” However, A 2016 Cochrane review looked at 39 studies with 10,631 participants and found that topical diclofenac, “can provide good levels of pain relief in osteoarthritis, but only for about 10% more people than get this result with topical placebo.”

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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