Anti-inflammatory painkillers are a group of medicines that are used to ease muscle pains, sprains, strains and arthritis. They can be taken by mouth (tablets, capsules or liquids), injected, or applied to the skin. When they are applied to the skin they are called topical anti-inflammatory painkillers. Sometimes they are called 'topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs' (NSAIDs), or just 'topical anti-inflammatories'.
You should always consult with a medical professional to get a diagnosis and consultant about treatments, but if they suggest an OTC cream as part of your treatment, there are some good ones to consider. You can find creams with various ingredients and in a variety of formats, including gels, roll-ons, and lotions. Some have a cooling effect, while others bring the heat, and there are scented and unscented options, so it all comes down to preference.
Menthol, Levomenthol, Eucalyptus, Camphor and Oil of Wintergreen are often added to topical joint treatments. These essential oils are absorbed into the skin and stimulate skin receptors to produce either a warm sensation or a cooling sensation as they numb the pain. They work by overwhelming nerve endings with these sensations so pain messages do not get passed on. This is known as a counter-irritant effect. Wintergreen is also a rich source of methyl salicylate, a natural anti-inflammatory painkiller related to aspirin. These essential oil creams and gels tend to have names such as Deep Heat or Deep Freeze to describe how they feel during use.
Schematic showing another inflammatory pathway that is activated by tissue injury. This is the NF-kB activation, in which once the protein is free as a result of tissue injury, it can enter the cell nucleus and activate the DNA to enhance the inflammatory response further by the production of additional cytokines, chemokines, and adhesion molecules (IKKB = IkB kinase)
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.
One of the problems with pain relief creams is that application can become messy. It can be difficult to keep the cream contained to the area of skin that needs treating, and if you get the product on your hands, it’s easy to accidentally rub it into the eyes, which can be painful! To the rescue: Roll-on formulas, like Outback All-Natural Pain Relief, which allow for hands-free and targeted pain relief. The product contains just four ingredients: tea tree oil, vanilla, eucalyptus, and olive oil. The ingredients ease pain by reducing inflammation.
That said, why not try it? It’s almost certainly safer than popping ibuprofen! Although not tested and approved for reckless experimentation on any pain problem, obviously the entire point of Voltaren® Gel is to limit exposure to the active ingredient. So you might choose to experiment — taking full responsibility for your actions, of course, and not suing me if something goes horribly wrong, because of course I’m not actually recommending it. 😉 Seriously: just run it by your doctor.
According to Susi Hately, owner of Functional Synergy, Inc., in Alberta, Canada, and author of several international best-selling yoga books, yoga can be very therapeutic for people with back pain as well. A review of scientific studies published in 2013 in the Clinical Journal of Pain found strong evidence that yoga can help reduce chronic low back pain. Yoga may help improve back pain by loosening tight muscles, building strength and range of motion, and improving breathing, explains Hately. Yoga also focuses on relaxation, which may help to relax your muscles as well as reduce pain perception.
Curcumin is a naturally occurring yellow pigment derived from turmeric (Curcuma longa), a flowering plant of the ginger family. It has traditionally been used as a coloring and flavoring spice in food products. Curcumin has long been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines as an anti-inflammatory agent, a treatment for digestive disorders, and to enhance wound healing. Several clinical trials have demonstrated curcumin’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic effects. Results of a study by Zandi and Karin suggested that curcumin might be efficacious in the treatment of cystic fibrosis because of its anti-inflammatory effect.[121] Curcumin is known to inhibit inflammation by suppressing NF-kB, restricting various activators of NF-kB as well as stemming its expression.
Various studies have also shown that NSAIDs can delay muscle regeneration and may reduce ligament, tendon, and cartilage healing.[4,13,77] Specifically, NSAIDs are believed to wipe out the entire inflammatory mediated proliferative phase of healing associated with WBC actions (days 0–4). A study of the effects of NSAIDs on acute hamstring injuries was done in humans by Reynolds et al.,[93] and these investigators concluded that patients who used NSAIDs did not experience a greater reduction of pain and soft-tissue swelling when compared with the placebo group. Interestingly enough, the authors noted that the NSAIDs’ group had worse pain associated with severe injuries compared with the placebo group.
Today, the most common conventional treatments for lower back pain relief are medications, including NSAIDS like aspirin and Tylenol, along with more potent prescription painkillers, such analgesics. These drugs can potentially cause adverse side effects in some patients and commonly don’t solve the underlying causes of lower back pain (such as poor posture, obesity or exercise-related strains). Some medications for back pains have even been tied to complications, such as liver damage or intestinal bleeding, when taken for long periods of time or in high doses.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), might relieve acute back pain. Take these medications only as directed by your doctor. Overuse can cause serious side effects. If OTC pain relievers don't relieve your pain, your doctor might suggest prescription NSAIDs.

Many athletes and arthritis patients swear capsaicin creams reduce their pain and they love the deep warming sensation they provide. This heat may be associated with relaxation, which reduces their pain response. Researchers have concluded that capsaicin creams may reduce nerve and osteoarthritis pain in some patients (when compared to placebo), but they aren't very effective in reducing muscle pain.  Best results are achieved in joints that are close to the skin, like those in the hands or knee.
People who used an ointment that contains this plant-based extract for 5 days reduced the intensity of lower back pain by 95%, according to a 2009 study conducted by Merck (which manufactures the ointment). In comparison, a placebo group had a 38% reduction in pain during that same time, according to the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Look for comfrey root ointment in health food stores or online. Just don't use it for more than 10 days at a time—it can be toxic.

Relief is the more natural alternative when compared with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), all of which note they may cause stomach or intestinal problems, such as bleeding and ulcers, and may increase the chance of heart attacks and strokes. Relief is a totally vegan product that contains no animal or animal derived ingredients, and has never been tested on animals.
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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