The 7 Best Pain Relief Creams to Buy in 2018

Chase away aches and pains with these pill-free options

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Aches and pains—whether a pulled muscle or chronic back pain—won’t just leave you limping or moaning in discomfort. Over time, pain can take a heavy toll both physically and mentally and is even associated with a greater chance of depression. Thankfully, painkiller medications aren’t the only solution. Topical pain relief creams are a great option if you don’t want or can’t take pills to treat the problem.

Pain relief creams (as well as gels and sprays) use different active ingredients to squash pain signals. Some common ingredients include menthol, camphor, and capsaicin—a compound found in chili peppers. Research is mixed on how effective the creams are. Some studies show that they can provide pain relief while others haven’t found them to be beneficial. If you ask around, however, you’re bound to find a friend or family member who swears by pain relief cream to help manage discomfort, and online reviews show that the creams have a large fan base. Read on to learn more about a few of the top-rated pain relief creams on the market.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Penetrex Pain Relief Cream

The ideal cream will provide quick and powerful pain relief. That’s why the Penetrex Pain Relief Cream, which targets inflammation at the root of the problem, is a favorite for treating muscle and joint discomfort. The formula contains clinically proven ingredients such as arnica, glucosamine, choline, and more, and is also free of parabens.

One reviewer describes the Penetrex cream as “magic in a jar,” saying that it helps her cope with back discomfort that doesn’t respond to other pain-treatment methods, whether massage or physical therapy. People say that the Penetrex cream has helped them while recovering from injury or surgery, but many also use it on a daily basis to alleviate arthritis pain as well as the normal but nagging aches that can spring up later in life.

Best Cool Therapy: Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel

Barox Pain Relief
Courtesy of Amazon 

Pain relief products that provide a cooling sensation can help distract the body from pain signals to ease comfort. One to try is Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel, which is used by chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists and athletic trainers to relieve muscle and joint pain. The formula contains 4 percent menthol—which is responsible for the cooling sensation—as well as an herbal blend of camphor, aloe, arnica, calendula, and more. The cream is NSAID-free and doesn’t contain parabens or propylene glycol.

People who use Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel say that the cooling formula sinks into the skin and that the scent goes away quickly to ensure you don’t smell like menthol. Reviewers have used the gel to successfully relieve pain from shoulder injuries, knee surgeries, and more.

Best Warm Therapy: Sombra Warm Therapy Natural Pain Relieving Gel

Products that create a feeling of heat on the skin can also help relieve discomfort by distracting you from pain signals. The Sombra Warm Therapy Natural Pain Relieving Gel provides controlled warming to ease conditions like arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, or even a simple backache. The gel quickly absorbs into the skin and won’t stain clothing. It’s also free of artificial colors, fragrances or alcohol.

Those who use the Sombra pain-relieving gel say that it helps relieve discomfort due to neuropathy, surgery, joint pain and more. Reviewers also say that the gel goes on smoothly and doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the skin.

Best Roll-On: Outback All-Natural Pain Relief

One of the problems with pain relief creams is that application can become messy. It can be difficult to keep the cream contained to the area of skin that needs treating, and if you get the product on your hands, it’s easy to accidentally rub it into the eyes, which can be painful! To the rescue: Roll-on formulas, like Outback All-Natural Pain Relief, which allow for hands-free and targeted pain relief. The product contains just four ingredients: tea tree oil, vanilla, eucalyptus, and olive oil. The ingredients ease pain by reducing inflammation.

People who use Outback All-Natural Pain Relief say that it helps ease both acute and chronic pain. The formula has a light eucalyptus and vanilla scent, but that smell disappears after application.

Best Dual Action: Neosporin + Pain Relief Ointment

If your discomfort is due to a cut, scrape or burn, the Neosporin + Pain Relief Ointment is for you. Not only does the ointment start killing germs in as little as 15 minutes to help prevent infection, but it also contains pramoxine hydrochloride, which offers pain relief while you recover.

Those who have tried using this Neosporin product say that cuts and scrapes heal within three days when this ointment is applied and that pain subsides quickly. To properly use the ointment, be sure to first clean the affected area with mild soap or saline water. Apply the Neosporin and then use a bandage to properly protect the area while it heals.

Best Arnica Cream: Boiron Arnica Cream for Pain Relief

The arnica Montana plant—also known as the mountain daisy—has been used for centuries to provide natural pain relief. For people who prefer a homeopathic approach to pain, the Boiron Arnica Cream is a great addition to your medicine cabinet. The non-sticky cream can help relieve muscle pain, stiffness, swelling, and bruise discoloration. It’s also a good option for sensitive skin thanks to the natural ingredients. It can even be applied to the face and is safe to use on children.

Reviewers agree that this cream is a must-buy and that the pain relief is almost instantaneous. One person says that the Boiron Arnica Cream allowed her husband, who suffers from debilitating arthritis, to return to normal activities.

Best Gel: Barox Pain Relief Massage Gel

Many people prefer gel formulas, like the Barox Pain Relief massage Gel, since they are lightweight and quickly absorbed. In fact, this gel absorbs into the skin in just 10 seconds and provides a cooling sensation while it eases pain. Unlike most other pain relief creams, The Barox gel is scent-free and hypoallergenic.

Reviewers say that the gel provides immediate relief from aches and pains like arthritis and back pain. The gel also promises to provide improved flexibility, making it a great option for athletes.

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