Inflammation in the body is quite common, especially when we’ve had an injury, suffer from some illness, or have gone through regular strenuous exercise. This condition can lead to a lot of body pain, which is why athletes and elderly people are constantly looking for the right anti-inflammatory cream. Issues such as joint pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or sore muscles are usually induced by inflammation. If any cream, gel, or balm is to work properly, it needs to soothe that inflammation and bring it down to a normal level.
If you’re also on the lookout for an anti-inflammatory cream, keep in mind that not every kind will work for every person. There are also scores of factors to remember before making a decision on what product to use. Some might be the rub-in kind, while others simply require a gentle application. Alternative options may come in the form of a patch, which slowly releases the medication into the affected area.
It can sometimes get challenging to choose between the wide variety of anti-inflammatory or pain relief creams on the market. The following guide will hopefully help in making the process easier:
Main Ingredients and How They Work
If you’re wondering which ingredients are usually included in an effective anti-inflammatory cream, check out the following list:
1. Methyl Salicylate
A lot of OTC pain relief creams contain methyl salicylate, which may sometimes be called wintergreen oil. This sometimes gives a minty fragrance to the product and cools the affected inflamed area when applied.
Basically, this ingredient is a counterirritant and is utilized as a distraction for the pain points. It’s usually inside rub on creams and may also be paired with an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
This compound is derived from chili peppers; it’s for the purpose of providing a warming sensation for the inflamed area. This element is also usually odor-free. When applied, it can reduce the pain we feel by blocking pain receptors in the skin. It’s mostly helpful for dealing with diabetic nerve pain and joint pain.
Keep in mind that the burning or tingling sensation from capsaicin will decrease once you get used to applying it. Also, it could take some days or even two weeks to get long lasting relief from using capsaicin.
This is also called mint camphor, and is derived from peppermint oil or synthetically through the hydrogenation of thymol. With its cooling effect, this ingredient can trick our minds into thinking that our temperature is going down. What it’s really doing is numbing the body’s nerve endings so that arterial blood flow decreases and the pain goes down.
The table below will give a brief glance at the ingredients usually included in anti-inflammatory creams:
Relief from minor pains
Avoid in third trimester of pregnancy
Rub on creams
Gives a burning sensation that distracts from the pain
Do not expose to direct sunlight or heat
Extreme pain relief
Not to be taken alongside oral NSAIDS
Creams and gels
Joint pain relief
Plants, shrubs, trees, and grasses
Not to be overused or in case of allergy to blood thinners
Cream, gels, ointments
Numbs pain, might be suitable for use during pregnancy
Might be risky alongside liver issues or heart rhythm medication
Gel or patch
Provides cooling effect
Very strong smell which might affect pregnant users
Why Use a Topical Pain Reliever?
A topical pain relief or anti-inflammatory cream might be more effective and safe than an OTC painkiller. Instead of going into the body, the creams work on musculoskeletal pain and help the body to recover in the affected area.
The following conditions might be alleviated with the use of OTC anti-inflammatory creams:
Minor everyday pains and aches
Sore or pulled muscles
Cancer-related pain or discomfort
What Kind of Product to Use?
Anti-inflammatory or pain relief products might come in many forms, so which is the best one? There’s no right answer here, as it mostly boils down to a person’s preference. However, so products may not have the ingredients you want; capsaicin, for instance, is usually not available in a spray form. If you want the effect of this ingredient, you’re more likely to find it in the form of a gel.
Patches are usually only applicable if the affected area is flat enough for its application. If you are suffering from inflammation-related pain in the neck or back, this option is fine. For joints like knees or elbow, however, creams and gels are the better option.
Are there any dangers of topical anti-inflammatory creams?
Applying an anti-inflammatory topical cream is usually a matter of trial and error. At times, you will have to decide whether a liberal application is required or just a thin layer. While it’s hard to overuse these creams, it’s still possible. Overusing and misusing any such creams could lead to salicylate poisoning, which might be fatal. Other serious negative side effects may also take place, such as overdrying of the area or a dependence on the product.
When using these creams, make sure never to mix them with heat (like a heating pad). This might result in extra-quick absorption into the bloodstream, which may not be good for the body.
Make sure to discontinue use if :
The condition worsens
The area gets irritated
Seven days have gone by with no improvement
Finally most topical painkillers are not recommended if the user is pregnant. A few options might be safe, especially the ones that contain lidocaine but it’s always best to consult a doctor before using them.
If the pain is just too stubborn, this might be the time to see a doctor. They will be able to tell if the problem is bigger than it seems and recommend a prescription-based pain relief medication instead.
Quick Tips for Applying Anti-Inflammatory Creams
Once you’ve decided which cream to use, keep in mind the following precautions:
These creams are not for use on broken skin, rashes, or burns
Always check the ingredients and read the labels carefully, especially if you have any allergies
Always perform a patch test before applying any product the first time
Menthol and clove might be irritants to some types of skin, so always wash hands after application; also be careful not to let the cream get near your eyes, nose, or genitals
A small spatula is useful for getting out the last bits of cream or ointment in a jar/tin.
With the large variety of anti-inflammatory creams available today, it’s hard to pick the right one for your needs. Narrowing down the options may help, so here’s a breakdown of the top anti-inflammation and pain relief options for now:
All these anti-inflammatory creams might be hard to remember and compare. With that in mind, we’ve made up this table so that you can view all the top products in one glance:
Choosing the best anti-inflammatory cream could require a bit of testing and sorting. Some ingredients may not suit every single user. The type of inflammation also matters, so make sure to do your homework before ordering any cream for pain relief or soothing an inflamed area. Reading reviews also helps, especially if a likely option provides a burning or cooling sensation.
At the end of the day, no one likes feeling aches or body pain all day long. We simply want to do away with the pain, preferably on a permanent level, and get on with our lives. This is why we should preferably look for an option that seeks to cure the problem at its root. One of these is Penetrex’s Therapy Cream and another is Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel. Both of these are non-greasy and won’t leave stains either, so we recommend considering them first if they match your requirements.