August 24, 2022 5 min read


Swollen joints resulting from Arthritis may cause pain and limit movement. If you have Arthritis, use pain relief options as possible. You may have tried over-the-counter pain relievers taken by mouth and exercise. They include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. The other option is to use over-the-counter (OTC) topical creams that can help relieve arthritis pain.

According to Vaishya et al. (2016), Arthritis creams help relieve joint pain when applied to the skin. They may provide short-term but effective relief. The creams usually work best on joints close to the skin's surface, like the joints in the hands or the knees. The major pain-relieving ingredients in arthritis creams are counterirritants, capsaicin, and salicylates.

According to Boardman et al. (1967), Salicylates reduce swelling and inflammation. It helps to reduce pressure and pain in the joints. Some salicylate products contain other ingredients like menthol, cinnamon oil, eucalyptus oil, and Camphor. These ingredients are called counterirritants. They usually warm or cool the skin and distract from pain in the brain. The article discusses the ingredients found in topical creams and ways of using them safely.

Safe Use for Pain Cream

Despite the arthritis products being OTC products, use them properly. Follow the steps below to ensure the arthritis cream is safe.

  • Follow the package directions while applying an arthritis cream
  • Wash hands before and after applying the cream. Never touch the eyes or mucus membrane once you have arthritis cream on your hands.
  • Limit the use rate to at least per day unless the package gives different directions.
  • Avoid using the cream if it uses any directions if there is any irritation, or notice that your skin is reacting to the product.
  • Suppose you are allergic to aspirin. Ask the doctor whether you should avoid salicylates. You are also supposed to avoid them once you take prescription blood thinners.
  • To avoid the side effects, use salicylate creams on occasions unless your doctor advises you otherwise.

Consult Your Doctor

There are many arthritis pain relief creams available on the market. It may be hard to know the right one. Discuss with a doctor about creating an arthritis management plan. These can include mobility exercise and strong medications. The doctor will ensure that you get the right diagnosis. When you know the type of Arthritis you are dealing with, you can find the arthritis pain relief product that is best for your condition. Some of the pain cream ingredients approved by experts include Lidocaine, Methyl Salicylate, Capsaicin, Camphor, and Menthol.

What Ingredients are in Topical pain Relievers, and how do They Work?

Over-the-counter topical pain relievers include methyl salicylate, also known as wintergreen. White & Kehlet (2010) clarified that it gives topical pain relievers a minty smell and creates a cooling effects sensation once applied to the skin. Methyl Salicylate is mostly used as a counterirritant, which acts as a distraction to the pain points. It depends on the product and other ingredients. These rub-on treatments can also be a no steroidal anti-inflammatory. Other topical pain relievers contain capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers and is responsible for producing a warm sensation. Other products contain menthol. It produces a cooling sensation and can trick the mind into thinking that the body or the skin drops. In return, the cooling feeling desensitizes the nerve ending. Like cold packs or ice, menthol decreases arterial blood flow.

Benefits of Using Topical Pain Reliever

According to Arqueta et al. (2020), a topical pain reliever works well on acute musculoskeletal pain rather than chronic pain. Those with nagging sores, neck, or pulled muscle in the shoulder can benefit from slathering on a layer. The products are also used to treat Arthritis, minor aches and pain pulled or sore muscles, sprains, and strains. The discomfort and pain associated with cancer have also improved from topical pain relievers. Below are some pain relief ingredients found in back pain creams based on their effects.


Mostly, the products that contain Lidocaine target deep pain and neuropathic pain.

How Lidocaine Works

There is a local anesthetic. Hasan et al. (2017) noted that it could offer pain relief to the area where it is applied. It blocks pain signals from the nerves. Studies have found that nerve pain can be a large part of the pain in the long term. So, after blocking the nerve signals, Lidocaine can help reduce the pain.

How to Use Lidocaine

  • Apply a thin layer to the area every six to eight hours
  • Avoid using the cream more than 3 times a day
  • Avoid applying the products with Lidocaine to open wounds and damage very dry, blistered, and compromised skin.
  • For the pregnant or those breastfeeding, consult the doctor before using products with Lidocaine.

Methyl Salicylate

The product is made of wintergreen oil.

How Methyl Salicylate Work

The product works in two ways. First, it can relieve pain by dilating the blood vessels in the skin, which offers an alleviating sensation of warmth. Second, they irritate nerve endings so that it is thought to change the feelings of pain.

Menthol is one of the substances found in mint plants. It can provide pain relief once used in topical products. It opens the blood vessels where it is applied. It increases the flow of blood and helps in healing. It also provides cooling effects and soothes the muscles, joints, and nerves.

How to Use It:

  • Ensure that your skin is clean and dry before you apply any salicylate
  • Apply a thin layer to the desired part and rub until it is absorbed.
  • Salicylate topicals are used up to four times a day or as advised by product packaging.
  • Stop using it immediately and seek medical help once you experience severe burning, blistering, and irritation.
  • Avoid covering the affected area with a bandage or heat wrap as this may increase the side effects and sensitivity to the product.
  • Avoid it from coming close to the eyes or the face, and wash hands immediately after using the product.
  • Avoid applying it before and after bathing.


It is an active ingredient found in chili peppers that provides them with their spice. It has an awesome medical use as well.

How Capsaicin Works

Products with capsaicin are used to treat several painful conditions, especially those associated with nerve pain. Although the mechanism is not fully understood, research has shown that capsaicin can effectively reduce back pain by depleting a chemical that signals pain to the brain. Other ingredients that are found in pain creams are Camphor and menthol.


Different pain relief creams depend on different active ingredients to perform well. Be sure to select a pain relief cream that matches your specific type of pain. Exercise caution with salicylate and Lidocaine based on creams.


Argueta, D. A., Ventura, C. M., Kiven, S., Sagi, V., & Gupta, K. (2020). A Balanced Approach For Cannabidiol Use In Chronic Pain. Frontiers In Pharmacology, 11, 561.

Boardman, P. L., & Hart, F. D. (1967). Clinical Measurement Of The Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Salicylates In Rheumatoid Arthritis. British Medical Journal, 4(5574), 264.

Hasan, B., Asif, T., & Hasan, M. (2017). Lidocaine-Induced Systemic Toxicity: A Case Report And Review Of Literature. Cureus, 9(5).

Vaishya, R., Pariyo, G. B., Agarwal, A. K., & Vijay, V. (2016). Non-Operative Management Of Osteoarthritis Of The Knee Joint. Journal Of Clinical Orthopaedics And Trauma, 7(3), 170-176.

White, P. F., & Kehlet, H. (2010). Improving Postoperative Pain Management: What Are The Unresolved Issues?. The Journal Of The American Society Of Anesthesiologists, 112(1), 220-225.