4 Creams Options for a Fast Muscle Pain Relief

Whether you play sports every day or do yard work on occasion, muscle soreness or pain is bound to affect you at some point. When this occurs there are numerous options including pills, patches, and topical creams. This article will discuss the different ingredients in creams and how they can help you.

Key takeaways:
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    Counterirritants work by stimulating superficial pain receptors and are best for muscle soreness related to working out.
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    Local anesthetics are able to numb the skin and relieve pain, and are best for neuropathy pain.
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    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and cannabidiol are best to treat pain associated with chronic conditions such as arthritis.
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    Always discuss the use of any new medication or cream with your pharmacist or physician before use.

Common ingredients used in pain relief creams

When it comes to pain relief creams there are four common classes of ingredients used in the majority of available creams.


Counterirritants are a class of medications that stimulate superficial pain receptors producing an irritant that distracts from underlying pain. Regular use works to desensitize the area producing pain relief. Common counterirritants used in topical creams include menthol, methyl salicylate, camphor, and capsaicin.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

(NSAIDs) can also be used to provide local relief of inflammation and pain. Using this ingredient topically reduces the side effects and drug interactions common with systemic NSAIDs. Diclofenac (Voltaren) gel is the only over-the-counter topical cream containing these medications.

Local anesthetics

Local anesthetics are used in topical agents to numb the area and provide pain relief. These medications can be used in combination with other ingredients or as the sole ingredient in the cream. Common local anesthetics include lidocaine, prilocaine, and tetracaine.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is an ingredient that has become popular in many creams and oils. It works as a natural anti-inflammatory without the side effects associated with synthetic NSAIDs. However, natural creams are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and thus can vary in potency and purity.

How to select the best cream for you?

When choosing a pain relief cream it is important to determine the type of pain you are experiencing. If the pain is due to neuropathy, creams with local anesthetics such as Aspercreme with lidocaine may be most effective. However, arthritis pain may respond best to Voltaren gel or a cream containing CBD. These medications can treat the underlying inflammation and provide sustained pain relief.

If your pain is from sore muscles after working out or performing yard work, creams including a counterirritant may provide the best relief. These include creams such as Tiger Balm and Bengay. However, some of these are associated with a strong odor that may detract from their use in public places.

What side effects should you worry about?

Topical creams are typically well tolerated as very little of the medications contained in the creams are absorbed through the skin. However, these creams can produce local irritation of the skin and rashes. Additionally, allergic reactions can occur.

You should avoid using any creams while pregnant or breastfeeding unless instructed to by your physician. Also, never apply these creams to open wounds or damaged skin.

When deciding on a pain relief cream, evaluate the ingredients as certain ones help with different types of pain. Discuss any questions with your pharmacist or physician as they can help you decide the best cream for you. This is especially true if you decide to use creams containing CBD, as they can help identify creams that are reliable and efficacious.


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