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10 Best Pain Relief Gels & Creams Fully Tested & Reviewed

last updated Oct 21, 2018

Whether you’re a runner looking for a quick solution to cure your muscle soreness or someone with chronic pain, a topical pain gel or cream is a great temporary relief option and an alternative to potentially addictive pain pills.

These excellent products work very well and have given many runners relief from pain during the recovery process from various types of injuries. Bringing quick relief to sore or aching muscles requires a cream or gel which has the ability to be quickly absorbed and reaches deep into your tissue to help bring relief from muscle pain.

Enjoy our selection of the 10 best pain relief gels and creams and say goodbye to aches and pains.

Researched Sources
9
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
2000
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
12
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
10
Products Evaluated
Last Updated: October 20, 2018
By EJ Callanan:

This product list has been updated with new rankings and information about these pain relief gels and creams. We have also expanded the FAQ section and improved the overall flow and readability of the guide to make it easier for you to find the information you need. Keep returning because if we find any top products which beat our current listings, we will add those new products to expand your choices.

Sorting Options
Product Purity Effectiveness Side Effects Durability Bottom Line By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.2
Product Purity
85%
Effectiveness
96%
Side Effects
92%
Durability
94%
Bottom Line
94%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$19.95
2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.6
Product Purity
85%
Effectiveness
94%
Side Effects
88%
Durability
90%
Bottom Line
91%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$17.78
3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.6
Product Purity
80%
Effectiveness
94%
Side Effects
87%
Durability
87%
Bottom Line
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$11.38
4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86
Product Purity
90%
Effectiveness
91%
Side Effects
80%
Durability
82%
Bottom Line
87%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$40.00
5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84.2
Product Purity
81%
Effectiveness
88%
Side Effects
80%
Durability
84%
Bottom Line
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$23.73
6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Product Purity
92%
Effectiveness
80%
Side Effects
88%
Durability
70%
Bottom Line
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$19.95
7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80
Product Purity
75%
Effectiveness
85%
Side Effects
80%
Durability
79%
Bottom Line
81%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$31.95
8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
79
Product Purity
87%
Effectiveness
80%
Side Effects
74%
Durability
65%
Bottom Line
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$7.99
9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
77.4
Product Purity
78%
Effectiveness
81%
Side Effects
77%
Durability
70%
Bottom Line
81%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$12.92
10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
76
Product Purity
90%
Effectiveness
80%
Side Effects
55%
Durability
70%
Bottom Line
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (20.10.18)
$17.98
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Penetrex
  • Sombra Warm Therapy
  • Biofreeze
  • Real Time Pain Relief Maxx
  • Orthogel
  • Outback
  • Doctor Hoy’s
  • Blue Goo
  • Glucosamine
  • CobraZol
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Top 10 Picks

1. Penetrex

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.2
Penetrex
Product Purity
85
Effectiveness
96
Side Effects
92
Durability
94
Bottom Line
94
best offer for today
$19.95
Pros:

Works extremely well

Reduces pain and inflammation

Doesn't smell bad

Absorbs quickly

No residue

Natural ingredients

Fast acting

Doesn't stain

Cons:

A little expensive

Penetrex cream can be used all over the body to help with inflammation. It claims to cure the root of the issue instead of using heat or cooling to keep your mind off the pain. The cream acts quickly to help reduce your pain and inflammation.

Read more

Product Purity
This cream gets absorbed into the skin quickly, so you're not stuck waiting for it to dry. The company claims it doesn't stain and doesn't go on greasy, either. It does not contain steroids or parabens. Its medicinal ingredients include arnica, glucosamine, B6 vitamin, choline among others. Reviewers liked the consistency of the product. It's in between thick and thin, so it's not gloopy or runny. Some reviewers did find it was a tad greasier than expected but not so much that they stopped using it. Reviewers also liked the use of natural ingredients.

Effectiveness
The cream is applied topically and can be used anywhere on the skin where inflammation and pain are occurring. You won't feel your skin start to cool or warm up because this cream doesn't use those sensations to mask pain. To apply, users should massage the cream into the skin to encourage quick absorption. Reviewers were seriously impressed with the cream and found it significantly reduced their inflammation and pain. Many reviewers with severe pain were happy to discover that with Penetrex, discomfort and soreness were nearly gone.

Odor
Penetrex doesn't have a strong odor, so you don't have to worry about putting it on before work or on the go. Reviewers agreed that the odor was not very strong and almost pleasant. Once absorbed, there's barely any smell that lingers. This is in stark contrast to many other pain relief creams and ointments.

Durability and Shelf Life
Users seem to use it up quickly, so there's no need to worry about it expiring. The label suggests a 2-year shelf life, so for those with intermittent pain, it can be kept in a medicine cabinet and used only occasionally without having to worry about the cream going bad.

2. Sombra Warm Therapy

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.6
Sombra Warm Therapy
Product Purity
85
Effectiveness
94
Side Effects
88
Durability
90
Bottom Line
91
best offer for today
$17.78
Pros:

Works well

Pleasant orange smell

A little goes a long way

Nice warming sensation

Small enough to stick inside a purse or bag

Doesn't feel greasy

Dries fast

Works on sensitive skin

Cons:

Some found the scent too strong

Some found it warmed too much

A warming cream from Sombra with a pleasant orange scent. Good for the relief of pain related to inflammation. It doesn't contain any artificial fragrances or dyes. Also suitable for muscle pain and aches. Sombra also sells a cooling gel and different packaging formats for various uses. The gel is also free of animal ingredients so vegans can happily use it when they experience joint or muscle pain. This gel uses a warming sensation to help alleviate pain and inflammation. Users should take care to wash their hands after application to avoid getting it in their eyes or around the eye area.

Read more

Product Purity
This gel, reviewers say, is quite thick and needs to be rubbed into the skin to encourage absorption. Reviewers liked the smooth feel of the gel saying that it felt nice on the skin. The thick feel of the gel makes it easy to slather onto the skin. Reviewers liked that the included ingredients were easy to recognize and pronounce. Active ingredients include methol and camphor. Other ingredients include various extracts to provide a pleasant smell and aloe vera extract. Reviewers liked that the gel did not stain or go on greasy.

Effectiveness
Reviewers found the gel worked as expected and helped to reduce aches and pains. Many reviewers preferred this formulation over brands like Icy Hot. For the cost, reviewers were happy with the results. The gel comes in a small container and is applied by rubbing and massaging the substance into the skin. Some users preferred the roll-on applicator saying it was easier to handle.

Odor
Most reviewers found the odor wasn't overwhelming and liked that once rubbed into the skin the Sombra gel did not leave an unpleasant scent. Others were not too pleased with the smell of the product. Natural extracts are used, so the gel smells like oranges. Some users found this scent overwhelming. Others felt the gel had a medicinal smell that was too strong for their liking.

Durability and Shelf Life
Users found the top of the container a bit difficult to screw closed. Otherwise, the container should last a fair while before it expires.

3. Biofreeze

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.6
Biofreeze
Product Purity
80
Effectiveness
94
Side Effects
87
Durability
87
Bottom Line
90
best offer for today
$11.38
Pros:

Available in green or dyeless option

Non-staining

Dries quickly

Not greasy

Works effectively

Nice cooling sensation

Works fast

Cons:

Some found gel hard to work with

Menthol has a strong initial odor

This Biofreeze brand gel comes in a small tube of 4 oz, perfect for bringing to work in a small purse or bag. The small tube contains a gel substance that provides a cooling effect to fight aching pain. The popular gel is an excellent choice for those with joint or muscle pain and is the perfect addition to a physiotherapists toolbox. It can be used topically on areas of the body and is easy to apply. It's also inexpensive compared to some other gel formulations on the market. The product has been around for 25 years and is not tested on animals.

Read more

Product Purity
The gel-like substance can be purchased in two formats. One features a subtle green dye, so it's easy to see where you're applying the gel. The other goes on clear. Both gels go on without a greasy residue and are free of parabens. The gel contains 4% menthol as its active ingredient and also includes a unique blend of other ingredients including Vitamin E, Arnica, and Aloe Vera. Reviewers liked the feel of the gel, particularly for massaging achy body parts. Some users found the gel a bit difficult to handle noting that the consistency felt a bit like Jello. Users did, however, like that the gel contained natural ingredients. A stronger concentration of menthol was well-received as well. Reviewers appreciated the inclusion of active ingredients that helped reduce pain and inflammation.

Effectiveness
Most reviewers were impressed with the long-lasting relief provided by the Biofreeze gel. A few did feel like the gel was not as effective as they would have liked, though. The Biofreeze gel uses a cooling effect in addition to its other ingredients to provide lasting relief. Many reviewers noted that the gel worked quickly, which they liked. It's a good choice for overnight pain relief for those experiencing aches and joint inflammation. The gel is also available in a roll-on form, which many users preferred saying that it was easier to apply in this format.

Odor
Most reviewers liked that the gel did not leave an unpleasant odor once applied to the skin. Others found the menthol smell to be overwhelming at first, but in general, it seems to fade away after a while. If you're self-conscious about using a strong smelling gel, it may be best to find an odorless formula instead.

Shelf Life
Users found the gel lasted longer than other formulations of this type of medicine because of its thick Jello-like consistency. The thick gel is easy to spread into the skin, and only a dollop is required to massage onto the body. Users reported different pain relief periods with most agreeing that the gel worked for a least a few hours to take away pain and discomfort.

4. Real Time Pain Relief Maxx

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86
Real Time Pain Relief Maxx
Product Purity
90
Effectiveness
91
Side Effects
80
Durability
82
Bottom Line
87
best offer for today
$40.00
Pros:

Natural ingredients

No artificial dyes

Pleasant odor that fades away

Long-lasting

Works as advertised

Dries fast

Cons:

Some found the menthol smell overpowering

A convenient pump makes it easy to get just the right away of pain relief cream for when you need the aching to stop. The formula also comes in a 1.5 oz and 4 oz tube. The formula is made with natural ingredients and works for a variety of body pains.

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Product Purity
This formula includes a whopping blend of 18 ingredients! Some of the ingredients include aloe vera, menthol, glucosamine, emu oil, and more. The product does not contain GMOs and is free of artificial dyes and parabens. It's made to go on without a greasy film and isn't supposed to stain clothing. It doesn't warm or cool the skin like other gels or creams. Reviewers appreciated that the Real Time formula contained natural ingredients in addition to menthol that make it work.

Effectiveness
Works well for a multitude of ailments. Aches, pains, arthritis, inflammation, bruises, you name it! One pump action provides you with enough of the stuff to rub into your skin. The substance dries quickly, too, and works just as fast. Reviewers seemed to agree that the substance worked as advertised.

Odor
Reviewers didn't mind the odor of the Real Time. Most found it more pleasant than other comparable brands. Users also mentioned that the odor did not linger like other gels or creams. Some users actually liked the smell. It does smell a bit like menthol, but the scent fades away once absorbed into the skin.

Durability and Shelf Life
Reviewers liked that the pain reliever pump lasted a long time. The bottle format makes it easy to get just the right amount for application. Users noted that following application directions is the way to go to ensure the substance lasts.

5. Orthogel

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84.2
Orthogel
Product Purity
81
Effectiveness
88
Side Effects
80
Durability
84
Bottom Line
88
best offer for today
$23.73
Pros:

Smell isn't overpowering, fades fast

Great for travel

Handy roll-on applicator

Works effectively

A little goes a long way

Cons:

Users noted it doesn't work on all types of pain

Seriously, we're not sure why every company doesn't make a roll-on format for their pain relief gels. It's so much easier to handle and helps to reduce waste! This Orthogel formula comes in a small 3 oz tube that's great for travel or those with the occasional sore muscle or stiff joints.

Read more

Product Purity
The gel consistency isn't really noticeable considering the Orthogel comes in a roll-on applicator bottle. The gel is FDA compliant and works well for various types of pain. Some ingredients include menthol, camphor, and Vitamin E. This isn't an all-natural pain relief gel, though, so expect a long list of ingredients that you might not recognize.

Effectiveness
Just use the roll-on applicator to get the gel onto the skin in the area where you're experiencing pain. Reviewers agreed that the relief was, of course, temporary but once applied the stuff works very well. Reviewers particularly appreciated how easy and mess-free to apply the gel was thanks to the roll-on design. It makes it a great pain relief product to bring with you on the go. Don't bother messing with creams and gel containers when you're out and about. A simple dab of the roll-on should do the trick.

Odor
Reviewers noted that the Orthogel did have a faint menthol smell but liked that it didn't linger very long and wasn't overpowering.

Durability and Shelf Life
Reviewers noted that the pain relief they got from this substance maxed out at about four hours or so. Application using the roll-on means that you use very little of the gel, so you won't find yourself running out too quickly. Those who want more can purchase the gel in larger formats.

6. Outback

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Outback
Product Purity
92
Effectiveness
80
Side Effects
88
Durability
70
Bottom Line
89
best offer for today
$19.95
Pros:

No lingering smell

Works well

Long-lasting pain relief

Only 4 ingredients

GMO-free

Easy to use

Mess-free application

Cons:

Slightly oily consistency

A handy roll-on pain relief oil that's easy to handle and apply. It's meant to be used on a regular basis to relieve pain. The formulation comes in a 50mL roll-on and a 300mL pump bottle. This Outback roll-on features only four ingredients and is not tested on animals, nor does it contain any animal ingredients.

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Product Purity
Natural ingredients mean that it's impossible to use this oil too much. The roll-on applicator makes the oil substance easy to apply to the skin. The pain relief substance only contains four ingredients. The ingredients are natural, GMO-free, and not animal tested. The anti-inflammatory oils include tea tree oil, vanilla, eucalyptus and olive oil. All stuff you can pronounce and recognize! The oils easily penetrate the skin, too. Some reviewers did note the substance was slightly oily, which is to be expected considering the nature of the ingredients. Otherwise, users didn't find the product messy or uncomfortable to use. Users also appreciated the small list of ingredients that were easily recognizable.

Efficacy & Application

The roll-on is super easy to apply. A roll-on cap means you won't need to worry about getting any of this stuff in your eyes on all over your hands. Unlike other types of pain relief medicines, the Outback formula does not cool or heat the skin to mask pain. The Outback formula is meant to be re-applied frequently with the onset of aches and pains. As the pain dissipates, the intent is to reduce application.

Odor

Unlike other types of pain relief gels, the Outback roll-on gel has a very nice odor. A blend of Eucalyptus and Vanilla emits a pleasant smell that's neither strong nor overpowering. Most reviewers found the smell faded away fairly quickly. Reviewers noted that any lingering odor was very faint and better than the majority of other pain relief creams and gels.

Shelf Life

The roll-on applicator makes it tough to apply too much to the skin. Since the oil absorbs quickly, you'll know when it's time to stop applying. You just need a little bit to work. Once applied, you should expect a minimum of a few hours of pain relief.

7. Doctor Hoy’s

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
80
Doctor Hoy’s
Product Purity
75
Effectiveness
85
Side Effects
80
Durability
79
Bottom Line
81
best offer for today
$31.95
Pros:

Cooling sensation

Not greasy

Works as advertised

Great for sore muscles

Smells dissipates once dried

Cons:

Expensive

This gel comes in three formats including a 3oz roll-on, 4 oz tube, and 8 oz tube. The natural pain relief gel includes time-released ingredients for targeted relief. It dries mess free without stain or residue. It's non-toxic and free of parabens, too. It also won't stink since the odor fades away fast. The gel is also FDA approved and not tested on animals. Its sweat-proof formulation makes it an excellent choice for athletes, and it also works well with Kinesiology tape.

Read more

Product Purity
The gel features a cooling sensation when applied. Reviewers liked this sensation and found it worked well on aches and pains. Reviewers also noted that the gel did not feel greasy when applied. Ingredients include menthol, arnica, and camphor.

Effectivenes
Reviewers found the gel worked well on their aches and pains. Many users used the gel for post-workout aches and muscle soreness and found the gel to work sufficiently well. Some users found that using gloves helped to reduce the smell and mess.

Odor
Reviewers noted that once dried the gel doesn't have a lasting smell.

Durability and Shelf Life
If used as directed, the gel should last an appropriate amount of time. There are three format options that you can choose from 3 oz, 4 oz, and 8 oz so that you can find the right size for your needs.

8. Blue Goo

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
79
Blue Goo
Product Purity
87
Effectiveness
80
Side Effects
74
Durability
65
Bottom Line
89
best offer for today
$7.99
Pros:

Easy to apply

Dries quickly

Natural ingredients

Makes skin soft

A little goes a long way

Cons:

Overpowering smell

Not everyone found the gel worked well

A reliable option for pain relief, this gel contains just a few ingredients to deliver fast-acting anti-inflammatory action. The gel is suitable for all types of soreness, aches, and pains. Works well for headache relief as well. It's also more inexpensive than competing options.

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Product Purity
Blue Goo contains emu oil and aloe vera. Reviewers liked that the gel dried quickly and was not messy to apply.

Efficacy & Application
Some users reported that the gel didn't work as well as they expected it too, while others found it was the only option that worked for them. Most found the product comparable to drugstore brands. Reviewers liked that the goo, once dried and absorbed into the skin, made the skin feel soft.

Odor
Reviewers were mixed on how they felt about the smell of the Blue Goo. Some found the scent pleasant, while others thought it was very overpowering.

Durability and Shelf Life
You only need a small coin sized amount to massage into the affected area of the body. Using appropriate amounts should mean that this gel will last a decent amount of time.

9. Glucosamine

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
77.4
Glucosamine
Product Purity
78
Effectiveness
81
Side Effects
77
Durability
70
Bottom Line
81
best offer for today
$12.92
Pros:

Virtually no smell

Convenient roll-on

Absorbs quickly

Long-lasting

Works for a variety of pain types

Cons:

Some users reported allergic reactions to the substance

Not everyone found it worked well

A great pain relief option for those experiencing aches and pains, particularly joint pain. A roll-on design makes application easy. Get right to the area that's hurting so you can go on with your day. The formula is also made in the USA. It's available in two formats a 9 oz roll-on or 3 oz roll-on.

Read more

Product Purity
The gel is easy to apply because of the roll-on and regardless of consistency isn't hard to get onto the skin like some other gels and creams. The formula includes emu oil and Capsaicin. There are more unpronounceable ingredients in this roll-on than other types of gels, though, which some may not like. Users should be careful, too, when applying the gel because of the capsaicin. Wash your hands thoroughly after putting this stuff on to avoid getting the substance in your eyes, nose, or mouth. Doing so could cause a painful burning. Reviewers found the gel a little bit thinner than expected. Some users also reported allergic reactions to the gel. Testing the substance by applying a small amount to a limited area is recommended.

Effectiveness
The roll-on applicator makes it simple to get right to the source of the pain and apply the gel where it hurts most. The roll-on also prevents messes that come with tubes and jars. Just open it up and roll onto the skin. Reviewers found that pain relief came on quickly after applying the gel to the skin. Some users though found the capsaicin caused a burning sensation which was very unpleasant.

Odor
Reviewers liked that the gel had no strong odor whatsoever. Unlike other gels, no users had complaints about the smell of the product.

Durability and Shelf Life
The roll-on design ensures that you don't overdo it when applying the gel. A simple roll of the tube, rub it into the skin and voila, you're set. You won't have to replace this tube too often thanks to this clever design. A small dab really goes a long way.

10. CobraZol

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
76
CobraZol
Product Purity
90
Effectiveness
80
Side Effects
55
Durability
70
Bottom Line
85
best offer for today
$17.98
Pros:

Contains unique effective ingredients

Great value

Not smelly

Easy to apply

Just need a little for it to work

Cons:

May cause allergic reaction in some

There's a reason there are so many roll-ons on this list. They're super handy and easy to use. This CobraZol gel provides quick relief that lasts up to 10 hours. It's a good choice for both chronic and acute pain. This gel comes in a 2 oz format. Believe it or not, this stuff actually contains cobra venom. Venom apparently is thought to help de-active pain pathways and reduce pain. This roll-on is a great way to manage pain and help users wean off of more serious and potentially dangerous pain medications.

Read more

Product Purity
In addition to the unique ingredient of cobra venom, this gel includes arnica and capsaicin. Some reviewers noted that they experienced adverse effects because of the inclusion of capsaicin. Be careful to test the product before applying to a larger area because some may have allergic reactions to specific ingredients.

Effectiveness
Most reviewers seemed happy with the effectiveness of this roll-on gel, though they noted that the effects did not last as long as advertised. Re-application is definitely necessary. Migraineurs also commented on the positive impact of using this roll-on gel.

Odor
Users reported that the CobraZol doesn't have a pungent or awful odor like other pain relief gels. You don't have to worry about any lingering odors or smelling like an old person with this roll-on gel.

Durability and Shelf Life
Reviewers found the gel to be worth every penny because of its effectiveness and long-lasting effects.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Product Purity

We looked at both gels and creams to create our top ten list. How did we evaluate consistency? We looked at whether the substances stained, went on greasy, or were otherwise messy to deal with. Did users like the feel of the gel or cream on their skin? Why or why not? We also looked at whether formulas were quick drying and whether they left a residue. When it came to ingredients, we wanted to select as many options as possible with natural ingredients that were easily recognizable.

Effectiveness

The most important question anyone asks when they are considering pain relief gel or crams is-does the stuff actually work? For each gel or cream, we also looked at how effective the relief was and how long it lasted.

We want to be clear, these creams do not cure the underlying cause of pain, they simply provide relief from that pain so you can continue on with your day, but you should still take measures to treat the source of the pain.

Side Effects

The only side effect most of these products have is odor. Some of them were reviewed as being neutral to actually smelling good, while others were reported to have quite a strong smell you might not like. A lot of this has to do with the nature of the ingredients in pain relieving treatments. Mentholated ingredients give natural relief, but they do tend to have a strong odor that accompanies them.

Durability

How much do you have to use at once and how often? Is it easy to apply too much? Generally, roll-on applicators are the best choice for reducing waste since it’s hard to put on too much when using them. It is also important to note that if you need deep muscle penetration roll-ons often don’t provide the same effect as hand rubbing gel or cream into the affected area. So be sure to keep that factor in mind as you review these products.

Bottom Line

Pain sucks, so the bottom line is that you want and need whatever product you choose from our list to work. And you need it work quickly and be effective for a long time.

We made sure that all the products on our list were rated as being highly effective. Within these products, however, there lies a spectrum of some products still being more effective than others. A lot of the time there's a trade-off, for example a lot of the time the more effective a medicine is the stronger it smells. Read our list and check out the reviews, and here's to having your pain melt away.

Other Factors to Consider

Bottom Line

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.

Application

For the application, we chose options that were easy and mess-free to apply. When you are trying to get pain relief while out on the trail or during a workout, the last thing you want is a big oily sticky mess on your hands, so be sure to think about where and how you're planning on using your pain relief product before buying.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: What is arnica? It’s listed as an ingredient in many topical pain relief medicines.
a:

Arnica is a natural anti-inflammatory, which is why you’ll find it in many pain relief gels and creams. It is a powerful natural medicine that comes from the perennial flower Arnica Montana. It that makes natural quick and easy pain relief possible, and it is also one of the biggest reasons why most pain relief gels and creams that use Arnica are available over the counter without a prescription or a doctor’s visit.

q: What is capsaicin?
a:

This substance comes from edible hot peppers and helps to reduce a substance in the body that works to produce pain. Be careful with gels and creams that contain this substance, you must wash your hands after using, especially before touching sensitive areas of the body. Some people may also experience adverse reactions to this ingredient. When first using a gel or cream with capsaicin use just a small amount in a small area to see how you react to it.

q: Is there any advantage to using a gel over a cream or vice versa?
a:

Gels are less messy than creams because they tend to be less greasy. Water-based gels are also hydrating for the skin. Creams may be more difficult to get off your hands when you’re done applying but are good for massaging affected areas. However, some people feel that creams provide additional hydration and that the increased time it takes to rub most creams in actually allows it to penetrate deeper into the sore muscles and tissues. It really comes down to personal preference.

q: What’s better for alleviating pain, heat or cold?
a:

It depends on the pain in question. You could use cooling substances or ice on pain that is caused by an acute injury. Cooling the area helps to reduce inflammation. Heat is better for chronic pain or for older injuries. Some pain rubs start off cold then start to warm giving you the best of both worlds.

q: What ingredients should I look out for if I suffer from arthritis?
a:

For arthritic pain in the hands and knees, capsaicin is your best bet if you want to go the natural route. Otherwise topical NSAIDs work well, too. If you are taking any medications for your arthritis, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before using any creams and gels and make sure there are no ingredients in them that could interact with your medication.

q: Will these types of creams and gels work on my migraine headaches?
a:

Maybe. They may not completely get rid of your monster headache but they may help relieve some of the aches that come with them. Some people who experience migrains also have neck and shoulder pain and topical pain relief gels and creams may help to lessen this symptom. Some migraine sufferers use roll-ons on the forehead or back of the head to induce a cooling or heating sensation to help cope with the pain.

Sources

  1. Jorge et al., Topical preparations for pain relief: efficacy and patient adherence, Journal Article,
  2. Jennifer Acosta Scott, A Guide to Topical Pain Medications, Health Website,
  3. Pharmacy Magazine, Topical pain relief, Website,
  4. WebMD, Topical Pain Relief: Creams, Gels, and Rubs, Website,