– Bodily aches and pains can develop from acute injuries or chronic conditions, and they may affect your muscles and/or your joints. To ease discomfort from relatively benign sources, your doctor might recommend that you try home treatment with an over-the-counter topical pain reliever. Here at drugstore.com, we have a wide assortment of rubs and ointments that use different methods of treatment to help alleviate symptoms. read more about rubs and ointments »
Oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (abbreviated "NSAIDs"), such as aspirin, are among the most common products found in any medicine cabinet. While these drugs can be taken in pill form to fight pain and swelling, many people prefer to use topical rubs or ointments that can deliver the active ingredients directly to the source of pain.
Topical NSAIDs are available as creams or ointments that you can rub into the skin surrounding a sore muscle or joint. As these products enter your bloodstream, they are carried to the source of pain much more quickly and may help you avoid symptoms like gastrointestinal upset that are sometimes associated with oral NSAIDs.
Numbing Pain with Topical Rubs and Ointments
Other topical products use different methods of treatment for pain relief. Local anesthetics temporarily numb the area of your body they are applied to, and they can be specifically helpful for relieving superficial pain.
Counterirritants and capsaicin (an ingredient found in hot chili peppers) can provide pain relief by introducing the sensations of cold and hot, respectively.
Counterirritants typically contain ingredients like menthol or eucalyptus, which make the area they are applied to feel particularly cool. These products essentially distract the nervous system by tricking your brain into focusing on the cool sensation rather than the pain.
A similar effect is created by capsaicin but these products use the sensation of heat to overload nerve endings and distract from pain.
Types of Topical Rubs and Ointments
Regardless of the active ingredients, topical rubs and ointments can be applied in many different ways. You might massage a cream into the skin surrounding a particularly sore area or use a roll-on applicator. Other products are contained within a patch that you can apply to skin for longer-term relief. Always talk to your doctor before using any rubs or ointments, and seek medical attention if pain gets worse.
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