Few people are immune to joint pain. A rickety knee, a tight lower back, a swollen ankle—there are many ways it can manifest and even more scenarios that can cause it. Oftentimes, pain or discomfort can come from overexertion, whether it’s putting in one too many hours at the office or going overboard with reps at the gym. Sometimes, joint pain comes with age in the form of arthritis or another age-related illness. And then, of course, there are those unpredictable moments that seem to come out of nowhere. Whatever the case, pain or inflammation relief is important, especially for those aches that can be easily remedied with a topical solution.
The most popular pain relief solutions typically come in the form of over-the-counter solutions that can be rubbed, sprayed, or applied as a patch to the affected area. As for the ingredients, they usually fall into a couple of popular categories, including but not limited to: counterirritants like menthol, salicylates that behave like aspirin, capsaicin—a pain reliever derived from hot chili peppers—and lidocaine.
How We Found The Best Pain Relief Creams
The options aren’t in short supply, but this curated best-of list is a hodge-podge of the best-sellers with tens of thousands of rave reviews between them. Each product in this roundup was discovered through Rank & Style’s proprietary algorithm, which scores each find against a spectrum of data including shopper reviews, expert recommendations, and social media buzz. Keep reading for the must-know deets about each topical pain reliever.
Next up, check out the 10 Best Body Firming Creams.
July 25, 2022
Top 10 Lists serve as unbiased shopping guides to the most trusted product recommendations on the internet. Products are scored and ranked using an algorithm backed by data consumers find most valuable when making a purchase. We are reader-supported and may earn a commission when you shop through our links.
Topricin Anti-Inflammatory Pain Relief Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Shoppers with carpal tunnel syndrome swear by this topical pain relief cream for its mostly natural ingredients that decrease inflammation to nerve tissue and improve blood circulation without irritating the skin. Among its most active properties are various floral extracts, including arnica, horse chestnut, and coneflower.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: This is also effective for minor cuts and scrapes on the skin.
Sagely Naturals Extra Strength Pain Relief Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This homeopathic pain reliever feels less like a rich cream and more like a luxurious body lotion, as its formula is heavy on anti-inflammatory oils, including cooling peppermint oil and camphor, both of which also carry antibacterial properties. Thanks to argan oil, safflower seed oil, and marula seed oil, it can also double as a body moisturizer.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: Because this pain reliever is 10% menthol, application shouldn’t exceed more than three to four times per day.
Aspercreme Maximum Strength Pain Relief Creme With Aloe
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: While most pain relievers carry a strong odor, this one is fragrance-free yet just as effective as its counterparts. The key ingredient is trolamine salicylate, a compound commonly used to bring relief to muscles and joints, in the same way an aspirin pill would.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: This is a targeted treatment that can be directly applied to the impacted area, as opposed to all over a particular body part.
Blue Emu Muscle And Joint Deep Soothing Original Analgesic Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: The singular benefit of this cream lies in emu oil, a carrier oil that can deeply penetrate the skin and eventually, joints and tissue, because of its tiny particles. Among the soothing properties it carries are aloe vera, salicylate, and hemp oil.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: This one is also odor-free and hypoallergenic.
Boiron Arnicare Pain Relief Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: For shoppers who want something minimal, here's a pain relief cream whose only active ingredient is arnica montana, a floral extract with anti-inflammatory properties. Its texture is also non-greasy but lubricating like a gel.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: This also comes in a size that is TSA-friendly for traveling.
Penetrex Joint & Muscle Therapy Intensive Concentrate Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This ayurveda-inspired pain relief cream is enriched with multiple plant-based ingredients, including boswellia serrata, whose acids are believed to support connective tissue. There’s also pyridoxine, a form of vitamin B6 that helps balance and regulate bodily fluids, including those which flow through nerve tissue.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: This can be used alone or alongside other pain relief solutions, such as ice packs and heating pads.
Icy Hot Original Pain Relieving Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: It’s a classic for a reason. Icy Hot contains both menthol and menthol salicylate. Combined, there’s a cooling sensation on the surface of the skin, as well as cooling relief that penetrates underneath.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: Besides the cooling effect of menthol, shoppers also brag about how quickly it takes effect.
Biofreeze Pain Relief Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Biofreeze also utilizes cold therapy as a way to overpower pain signals in the brain and provide almost instant relief. In fact, menthol is the only active ingredient, as the formula doesn’t contain NSAIDs.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: Biofreeze is on the thicker side, so a little goes a long way.
Bengay Ultra Strength Pain Relieving Cream
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: This is the strongest Bengay product in the brand’s repertoire, as it combines three active, pain-relieving ingredients. They include camphor, an ingredient distilled from the bark of camphor trees, that increases blood circulation to decrease swelling.
SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW: The anti-inflammatory effects of camphor take effect as menthol quickly distracts pain signals from the brain.
Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Ointment
WHY IT MADE THE LIST: While most of the pain relievers on this list come with a cooling sensation, shoppers are just as obsessed with the warming properties of Tiger Balm. Those healing benefits are enhanced even more by the energizing scent of cinnamon, which also supports blood circulation.
USER REVIEW: “This is the truth! My coworker had been telling me about this product, and I was skeptical about it. Long story short, I bought it, and now I can't get enough! The heat gets deep inside after you rub it in and feels so relaxing after that. But just a little bit will go a long way.”
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