Many people don’t want to rely on prescription or over-the-counter medications to ease their aches and pains. These medications work on the whole body. They cannot target a sore calf after a long run or achy triceps after a difficult workout.
That’s why things like menthol temporary pain relief creams and gels are so appealing. They can be applied directly to the source of the discomfort and get to work quickly.
Menthol’s unique mechanism of action provides effective and highly targeted relief. Here’s how menthol works to impart relief when you need it most.
How Does Menthol Help Work for Pain?
Countless receptors throughout your skin tell your brain and your body about your environment. Your skin lets you know if you’re hot or cold, allowing you to better prepare and adjust to the external temperature.
The skin’s TRPM8 receptors are responsible for relaying the sensation of cold. They’re typically activated by chilly temperatures and tell you when it’s time to put on a coat. When you apply ice to your skin or take a cold shower, these receptors activate.
Although menthol isn’t cold (unless the whole cream or ointment has been refrigerated), it activates the same receptor. Your body perceives menthol as cold, even when your body and the menthol cream or gel are at room temperature.
When you have swelling or discomfort in a muscle or joint, the cooling sensation works as a counterirritant to offset the feeling of discomfort.
What Is a Counterirritant?
Counterirritants like menthol essentially feed your body conflicting information by superseding the sensation of pain. The throbbing or aching sensation is overtaken by the sensation of the menthol irritating your cold receptors.
Your body will attempt to send a pain signal at the same time it’s sending a cold signal.
The cold signal plays heavy-duty interference, drowning out the pain signal’s attempts to reach you. Most people find the cooling sensation relieving, and it’s undoubtedly more pleasant and agreeable than a pain sensation.
The short version: Menthol overrides your perception of discomfort for up to several hours.
Your body will work to manage healing processes naturally and in its own time. The menthol prevents you from fully experiencing the aches associated with that process.
Is Menthol Safe?
Menthol is safe to use on healthy skin. It may irritate cuts, wounds, or broken skin. Pure menthol is extremely strong and may cause severe irritation to the skin.
That’s why it’s so heavily diluted in temporary pain relief creams, usually comprising anywhere between 3% and 10% of the total formula. This amount of menthol, when diluted with other skin-healthy ingredients, is safe for regular use.
Is Menthol More Effective Than Real Cold?
Menthol and ice have been utilized in an apples-to-apples study designed to observe their respective effects on pain. Sixteen people participated in a survey after performing exercises specifically designed to make their elbow flexors sore.
Half of the participants treated their sore flexors with ice for two days. The other half used a 3.5% menthol topical cream.
Ultimately, the menthol group fared significantly better. People who used the menthol treatment found significantly better relief 20 minutes after use. In addition to temporary pain relief, the menthol group utilized more force with their flexor muscles without experiencing discomfort.
In truth, ice and menthol serve completely different functions. Menthol is excellent at limiting the perception of discomfort, while ice excels at reducing swelling. When ice is applied to a sore muscle, the throbbing muscle fibers and capillaries contract, reducing blood flow to the area and inhibiting redness and swelling.
Icing an injury for 20 minutes, waiting two hours for the skin to return to room temperature, and then applying menthol-infused pain cream would allow you to safely enjoy both sets of benefits.
Does Menthol Work for Chronic Pain?
People with chronic pain are hesitant to rely on temporary over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications for a wide variety of reasons. Over-the-counter solutions like acetaminophen (Tylenol) work in the short term, but excessive use can cause liver damage.
Prescription pain medications pose a very high risk for dependency while causing unpleasant side effects like impaired cognition, constipation, and changes in breathing patterns. They aren’t intended to be used long-term.
Topically applied menthol doesn’t need to be processed by the digestive system or the liver. It poses no risk of dependency and has a low instance of side effects. Many people find that menthol pain relief gels and creams are effective, safe, long-term solutions to help ease discomfort from chronic pain because they can be used multiple times a day without adverse consequences.
People living with joint disease or recurring back pain can incorporate menthol pain relief products into their daily routines. After intense workouts, highly athletic people who need a safe, dependable, and fast-acting pain relief method will also significantly benefit from menthol relief creams.
How To Use Menthol for Pain
Topical menthol products are applied directly to the source of the tension. Massaging the gel into the skin serves two essential purposes.
The first is that massage helps to promote absorption of the product’s active ingredients, leading to maximum relief in a much shorter timespan. The second is that the act of massage itself can help to ease the underlying ache.
You can apply your pain gel three to four times a day. After applying the product, avoid showering or coming into contact with water for at least 30 minutes to assure the product has had a chance to absorb completely.
Hempvana Makes It Easy
Hempvana Cold As Ice Roll On Pain Relief Gel makes it as easy as possible to apply menthol pain relief gel directly to the source of your aches and pains. The roll-on applicator makes for a mess-free application. You won’t get the product all over your hands while you’re rolling on the gel.
Its ease of use makes it the perfect portable solution for temporary pain relief. Take it with you when you travel. Keep a tube at your desk and toss one in your gym back for a post-workout touch-up and long-lasting relief. The roll-on applicator allows you to apply the relief gel anywhere, anytime.
The hemp seed extract in Cold As Ice works as an occlusive moisturizer. It draws and traps moisture to the skin, leaving the area softer and smoother than it was before you applied it. The deeply moisturizing texture of the gel makes a short massage session a lot more pleasant.
TRPM8: The Cold and Menthol Receptor – TRP Ion Channel Function in Sensory Transduction and Cellular Signaling Cascades | National Institutes of Health
Acetaminophen – LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury | NCBI Bookshelf