When pain sets in, the first instinct is to mitigate the discomfort as quickly and effectively as possible.  Oftentimes, the severity can have you overlooking what is truly in these products because your only concern is to have some immediate relief to return to your functioning self.  

But to truly do yourself justice and to provide the best management of your pain, you should be aware of what ingredients are known to actually work as they claim.  

When Do You Need Pain Relief Cream?

What makes pain relief cream an ideal go-to product at the slightest sign of discomfort on your body?  The sheer fact that it is as instantaneous of treatment as you can get and you do not need a prescription to obtain it.  

Pain relief creams are easy, effective, and offer the quickest way to find a way to work through the discomfort and return to a somewhat normal life.  The word pain is very broad and can encompass many different forms.  For the purpose of a pain relief cream, the situation in which it would be most relevant is with muscle, joint, shoulder, back, knee, and wrist pain.  These are areas that do the most work in terms of keeping your body active and mobile so it is no wonder that they can be the points where problems arise the most often. 

Arthritis – There are so many types of arthritis to be defined, regardless of which form you have been diagnosed with the commonalities in how they manifest in your body is very similar in nature.  The most common symptoms are typically swelling, pain, stiffness, and swelling.  While the treatments for alleviating these symptoms can vary, a great pain relief cream can be a go-to product to have on hand when the severity of the pain needs to be attended to immediately.  

Aches – From poor sleep position, sitting, standing, physical activity, and more, body aches are a pretty common occurrence.  Sometimes they can be the sign of an underlying condition or they could just be a sign that you need to make some adjustments in the way you go about your daily life to accommodate your body better.

Muscle Cramps –  These can occur seemingly out of nowhere and when it happens, the pain can be absolutely unbearable to move.  Using a great pain relief cream that can offer instant relief will help immensely with just being able to adequately get further assistance or alleviate pain long enough for it to subside altogether.  

Stiff Joints – When you have difficulty bending or moving your appendages at the joint, it likely is from having stiff joints as a result of arthritis, lack of movement, or proper circulation to that area.  Typically occurring in the morning or after a long period of inactivity, having this issue can make being mobile or normal everyday movements a struggle.        

The Top Active Ingredients

Trolamine Salicylate

In the same family as aspirin, it gives the same effect relieving pain and soreness.  When absorbed into the skin, it may help with pain, particularly in joints close to the skin, such as the fingers, knees, and elbows. The most allowable amount in a topical form is 10%, so if you are seeking the highest level of over the counter relief that is the number you should be on the lookout for.  Oftentimes it can be combined with other effective ingredients to boost pain management with ingredients such as hemp seed oil, which is a known nutrient-rich moisturizer, as well as turmeric, also known as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.  Any form of salicylate is going to be a powerful ingredient that provides the targeted relief you are seeking, as you essentially get to put it to work at the source of your problem versus taking it orally and waiting for the bloodstream to work the medicine to your brain and dictate where in the body you need to have it affect.    


Considered to be a counterirritant, menthol and other forms of oils work to give off a cooling sensation that distracts the brain from feeling the pain.  Your body believes that the body temperature is being lowered.  In return, this cooling feeling desensitizes the nerve endings. Like ice or cold packs, menthol decreases arterial blood flow.  

Menthol is the most used counterirritant used in pain relief creams, although you may also encounter cinnamon and evergreen oils such as wintergreen.  This active ingredient also is found in a percentage form indicated on the bottle of the product you are buying.  It usually acts as a standalone agent and is not needed to be combined with a salicylate.  Found in many holistic and not medicated formulations, menthol’s cooling action works instantaneously to give the relief you seek.     


In a nutshell, this is the component that gives chili peppers their heat.  Initially, you may feel a tingling or burning sensation but it will dissipate over time.  As an odor-free agent, it is useful to provide that instant pain relieving heated sensation.  It reduces pain by blocking the skin’s pain receptors, thus almost tricking the brain to focus on another sensation other than the discomfort being felt.  The sensation that capsaicin gives may take some a few times to several weeks to kick in before the pain subsides.      


a picture of man's back and his spine showing lower back pain

Additional Ingredients

Hemp Seed Oil – Although not a main staple in the world of potent pain-relief ingredients, when combined in conjunction with salicylate or menthol, it works to provide the skin with much-needed moisture as sometimes these agents can dry or irritate the skin on their own.  Additionally, hemp seed oil is a known soother, so while it doesn’t relieve pain, it can aid in soothing and calming the skin.  As an occlusive moisturizer, it locks in hydration as much as it works to provide it. 

Turmeric – Another natural ingredient known for its anti-inflammatory powers, turmeric when ingested makes an ideal spice to provide the anti-inflammatory properties needed to reduce swelling internally as much as possible.  When topically applied as part of a pain management relief product with trolamine salicylate, it has the power to provide the same abilities to combat inflammation as it does when consumed orally.  Its ability to decrease inflammation is well known, therefore if you happen to come across it in a pain relief cream, know that you will be getting an added dose of natural assistance with your ailment.  

Taking Precautions

While these pain relief creams are readily available at any drugstore or online for purchase with the need of a physician’s prescription, directions and application does need to be followed very carefully.  If exposed to more sensitive body parts such as the eyes, nose, and mouth, the pain can be worse than wherever you are trying to alleviate.  

The best practice when applying any of these topical pain creams is to first and foremost be cognizant of what you are doing and where your hand once the cream is on your body.  After careful application, wash your hands immediately with soap and warm water to adequately remove any traces of it.  If you notice your skin turning red or any other form of irritation that is abnormal, cease use and remove the product to ensure you don’t have a severe reaction to your skin.  

Applying these forms of topical creams are also ill-advised around any open wounds or cuts.  They could likely cause further irritation on the skin and can be hard to remove should further pain incur.  Consult your doctor if you feel like you are having a severe reaction to any cream or topical treatment at onset.  

There are many pain relief creams in existence, many of which contain these highly active ingredients.  To ensure that you choose one that is going to provide that immediate relief you seek, it would be well advised to stick to ones that contain these active ingredients as being the most used means they also have been well researched as to their potency.  They work because they have been tested to be tried and true products.  Hopefully, pain relief will be an easier process for you now that you know what to be on the lookout for.