Take the Pain Out of Choosing the Right Pain Relief Remedy

It can be a real pain to figure out which type of topical pain reliever is best for aches and pain. There are countless choices on drugstore shelves, but each is different and some are best for certain kinds of discomfort. Luckily, MD Now Urgent Care created this simple and helpful guide to make choosing a topical pain reliever more of a pleasure than a pain. If you have any questions or concerns, contact any MD Now location to ensure that you reach for the right pain relief cream, gel, ointment, foam, or spray.

When to Opt for Ointments

Ointments can be extremely effective in treating dull, aching pain. Yet different ointments treat pain in different ways. The first is the kind that contains capsaicin. It works by causing mild skin irritation and a slight burning sensation, which boosts the blood supply and results in relief. If any irritation continues after use, stop applying the ointment and consult your physician. The second type of ointment contains both aspirin-like substances and menthol, which alleviate pain. 

When to Choose Creams

A pain relief cream is typically less greasy than an ointment. Creams are ideal for arthritic pain, but they only offer temporary relief. A pain relief cream contains counterirritants that heat the skin to distract your brain from any pain, while a compound called capsaicin blocks the skin’s pain receptors to soothe away the pain. If this treatment results in any swelling, apply an ice pack to the irritated area.

When to Find Foams

Foams are non-greasy and non-drip formulas that begin to soothe within seconds and provide up to eight hours of relief. Since foams spread much faster than creams, a little foam goes a long way. Any scent disappears very quickly, so foams are helpful for pain near the face, such as neck and shoulder pain.

When to Select Sprays

Ideal for relieving acute pain and reaching difficult-to-reach spots like your back, a spray provides a highly pressurized stream of cooling menthol to immediately numb any pain. Sprays are very popular because they don’t leave a greasy feeling or make or big mess. Ask your provider if a lidocaine spray is best for your pain. 

When to Apply an Arnica Gel

Think of arnica gel as a much less greasy alternative to ointments and creams. The gel contains counterirritants that use a mixture of cold and hot sensations to provide pain relief for up to eight hours. Arnica gel is typically recommended for shoulder, upper back, and lower back pain. Just be aware that alcohol-based gels have a tendency to dry out skin over time.

When to Reach for Roll-ons

In addition to being fast and easy to apply, roll-ons save you from getting sticky substances all over your hands. Roll-ons quickly absorb into the skin and can start to work within 20 minutes. They are ideal for chronic pain relief in the shoulders, neck, wrists, hips, and lower back.

Use this guide to topical pick the perfect pain relief cream, gel, ointment, foam, or spray.


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