10 Best Pain Relief Gels & Creams | 2021 Buying Guide

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Penetrex
Test Winner: Penetrex
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Regardless of the type of athlete you are, you will experience some type of pain or soreness at some point—no matter how well you take care of yourself. But, lucky for you, the best pain relief gels & creams on our list will fix that right up for you.

Chronic pain is no fun—trust me, I have dealt with it myself—so any relief is welcome when you are dealing with it. The pain relief gels and creams on our list will help relieve your aching muscles and soothe them from any pain you may be feeling.

Nowadays there are a ton of different gels and creams to choose from, which is why it can be difficult to find the best of the best on your own—but lucky for you, we have found the top 10 best pain relief gels & creams for you already!

Check them out!

Standout Picks

The Penetrex best pain relief 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 best pain relief cream acts quickly to help reduce your pain and inflammation.
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If you have any muscle stiffness or pain, Arnicare will provide fast-acting relief in this best pain relief cream that will make you feel better in no time. And, the best part about this product is its ingredients--so, if you want something you can trust you will definitely love this one.
Amazon Link
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.
Amazon Link
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.
Amazon Link
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 best pain relief cream is made with natural ingredients and works for a variety of body pains.
Amazon Link
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.
Amazon Link
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.
Amazon Link
This one is a pricier option on our list, but it is well worth the price. It is fast-acting, long-lasting and will ensure your pain is relieved. Given the safety of the ingredients used in this product, how easy it is to use, and how effective it is at relieving pain, you will love this one and find that it is well worth the cost if you decide to get it.
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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.
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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.
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Criteria Used for Evaluation

Effectiveness

When you're in pain you want relief and you want it fast. Make sure to get something that actually works before you buy!

Every person is different with a different system and as such it's important to recognize that what works well for one person may not work as well for another. But we also recognize how debilitating pain can be, especially for runners and other athletes so we made sure to include products that work well and work quickly.

In order to determine this, we looked at the best pain relief cream that consists ingredient list and also considered over 2000 reviews from real-world users so that we could get a good, well-rounded view of what works and what doesn't across a wide spectrum of the population. And, as you can see, we made sure to include options for everyone!

When it comes to natural pain relief, you'll find ingredients such as eucalyptus, menthol, arnica, capsaicin, lavender, turmeric, ginger, and more. Conventional products use ingredients such as salicylates, which use the same ingredients and have the same pain-fighting properties as aspirin. Make sure to look for products with the ingredients you can actually use.

Products that contain things such as eucalyptus and menthol are known as counter-irritants because they cause a cooling or slight tingling sensation that distracts from the pain. Finally, none of them made this list due to continued controversy, but CBD best pain relief cream, which contains hemp products, is gaining in popularity and is showing itself to be highly effective in managing pain.

Product Purity

Your skin is your largest organ and absorbs whatever you put on it, so it's important to use products with good ingredients.

Thankfully, there are a lot of natural ingredients that can help to relieve your pain. Eucyluptus, camphor, mint, ginger, lavender, capsaicin, turmeric, and rosemary have all been proven to be effective at relieving pain. To determine the score for this category we looked at the ingredient lists for each pain relief cream and noted how many natural compounds they contain.

We also looked at the reputation of the company who makes each product. This can help to determine if the ingredients are sourced from reputable and ethical sources. Most of the products on this list use all-natural or mostly natural ingredients. We scored each best pain relief cream according to the quality of the ingredients and their sources.

The best pain relief cream with higher scores in this criterion use more natural ingredients. Make sure to take a look at all of these factors and compare them to your personal needs and preferences--this way you can be sure you are specifically looking for products that are made to handle your specific needs.

Side Effects

Thankfully the worst you'll experience with these products is a funky smell.

The only side effect most of the best pain relief cream products have is an odor. Some of them were reviewed as being neutral smelling to actually smell quite 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. There is also a choice with the best pain relief cream on our list that contains things that smell amazing. These include lavender, ginger, rosemary, cloves, and turmeric. These will help you to enjoy using your pain relief creams or gels.

This will also help you to relax, which is also a highly effective pain relief gel. With counter-irritants that produce a tingling or light warming sensation, please be aware that this is how they work before using them so you don't get caught by surprise and wind up distracted or uncomfortable when you're driving or doing something else that requires your focus and concentration.

Potency

Most people want pain-relief products that are strong and work quickly. Others may want something a bit gentler.

Before you use a large amount of any of these products it's a good idea to use a small amount on a less sensitive part of your body to see how your skin and system react. Some of the best pain relief cream products on this list can be quite strong so you want to make sure you don't use too much at one time.

The products that contain capsaicin, eucalyptus, and mint are typically the ones that are most potent. These will cause tingling which is something that you should be prepared for. While this factor is somewhat related to effectiveness, here we're basically talking about how much of the best pain relief cream you have to use in order to have it relieve your pain.

Having a more potent product can be a great thing because you will save money by using less. However, if you want to use a lot of a product as you might in a massage, for example, you might not want something as strong because it could cause discomfort when used in large amounts as the best pain relief cream.

10 Best Pain Relief Gels & Creams

1. Penetrex

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Penetrex
penetrex
penetrex
penetrex
penetrex
Amazon Link

The Penetrex best pain relief 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 best pain relief cream acts quickly to help reduce your pain and inflammation.

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Effectiveness

The best pain relief 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 best pain relief 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.

Product Purity

This best pain relief 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, vitamin B6, and 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.

Side Effects

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.

Potency

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.

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2. Arnicare

Where to buy
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Arnicare
Arnicare
Arnicare
Arnicare
Arnicare
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If you have any muscle stiffness or pain, Arnicare will provide fast-acting relief in this best pain relief cream that will make you feel better in no time. And, the best part about this product is its ingredients--so, if you want something you can trust you will definitely love this one.

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Effectiveness

Reviewers found this one to be really effective although it wears off a little fast for some. Make sure to try it on a small patch of skin first, just in case you are allergic.

Product Purity

This best pain relief cream is made of natural arnica and other ingredients. It's not greasy and easily absorbable. This product also feels great, and you can trust that all of the ingredients in this product are those you can trust.

Side Effects

It has a faint smell, but reviewers didn't complain about it. However, other than an odor you may not love, you won't have to worry about this product having any harmful ingredients or causing any unwanted side effects you need to worry about--unless you are allergic of course.

Potency

This one comes in 2.6-ounce bottles and has a long shelf life--and, although it doesn't have any crazy strong ingredients that will offer intense results, it is potent enough to ensure that you get the pain relief you need.

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3. Sombra Warm Therapy

Where to buy
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Sombra Warm Therapy
sombra warm therapy
sombra warm therapy
sombra warm therapy
sombra warm therapy
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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.

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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.

Product Purity

This best pain relief cream, 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 menthol and camphor. Other ingredients include various extracts to provide a pleasant smell and aloe vera. Reviewers liked that the gel did not stain or go on greasy.

Side Effects

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.

Potency

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

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4. Biofreeze

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Biofreeze
Biofreeze
Biofreeze
Biofreeze
Biofreeze
Amazon Link

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.

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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.

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.

Side Effects

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.

Potency

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 best pain relief cream worked for a least a few hours to take away the pain and discomfort.

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5. Real Time Pain Relief Maxx

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Amazon Link
Real Time Pain Relief Maxx
real time pain relief maxx
real time pain relief maxx
real time pain relief maxx
real time pain relief maxx
Amazon Link

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 best pain relief cream is made with natural ingredients and works for a variety of body pains.

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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.

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 cools 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.

Side Effects

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.

Potency

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 the following application directions are the way to go to ensure the substance lasts.

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6. Orthogel

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Orthogel
orthogel
orthogel
orthogel
orthogel
Amazon Link

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.

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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.

Product purity

The best pain relief cream 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.

Side Effects

Reviewers noted that the Orthogel did have a faint menthol smell but liked that it didn't linger very long and wasn't overpowering. The best part about this product is that it features ingredients you can trust, so you don't have to worry about it causing any unwanted side effects--just make sure to take a look at the ingredients to make sure you aren't allergic to any of the ingredients.

Potency

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 best pain relief cream in larger formats.

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7. Outback

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Outback
Outback
Outback
Outback
Outback
Amazon Link

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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Effectiveness

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.

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.

Side Effects

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.

Potency

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.

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8. Blue Emu

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Blue Emu
Blue Emu
Blue Emu
Blue Emu
Blue Emu
Amazon Link

This one is a pricier option on our list, but it is well worth the price. It is fast-acting, long-lasting and will ensure your pain is relieved. Given the safety of the ingredients used in this product, how easy it is to use, and how effective it is at relieving pain, you will love this one and find that it is well worth the cost if you decide to get it.

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Effectiveness

This one is easy to apply and absorbs easily so, whether you apply or someone else does, it will effectively relieve your pain and make sure you are comfortable.

Product purity

The primary ingredient for this one is emu oil--so it is pretty natural and one fo the more organic options out there. It features other organic ingredients, so make sure to look closely to make sure this one is compatible with your needs.

Side Effects

Some love the smell, others hate it--it really just depends. Other than that, there aren't really any reported issues regarding side effects. Make sure you take a look at the ingredients, just in case you are allergic or sensitive to certain ingredients.

Potency

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.

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9. Glucosamine

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Glucosamine
Glucosamine
Glucosamine
Amazon Link

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.

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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.

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 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.

Side Effects

Reviewers liked that the gel had no strong odor whatsoever. Unlike other gels, no users had complaints about the smell of the product. Aside from that, there are also few physical side effects that you need to deal with this one.

Potency

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.

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10. CobraZol

Where to buy
Amazon Link
CobraZol
CobraZol
CobraZol
CobraZol
CobraZol
Amazon Link

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.

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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.

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.

Side Effects

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.

Potency

Reviewers found the gel to be worth every penny because of its effectiveness and long-lasting effects. This roll-on is a great way to manage pain and help users wean off of more serious and potentially dangerous pain medications.

Amazon Link

Sources

  1. Jorge et al., National Library of Health, Journal Article
  2. Jennifer Acosta Scott, Everyday Health, Health Website
  3. Editorial Team , Pharmacy Magazine, Website
  4. Editorial Team , WebMD, Website
  5. Editorial Team , Do Pain Creams Really Work?, Website
  6. Lana Burgess, 12 Natural Ways to Ease Pain, Website

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