A Guide to Creams, Gels, and Ointments for Arthritis Pain Relief

Even if you are taking medication for arthritis pain, after a weekend of physical activity like hiking, you may notice that you feel flares of pain. In these situations creams, gels, and ointments for arthritis relief can be very helpful.

Hot or Cold

There are some arthritis gels that make your skin feel hot or cold and bring temporary arthritis relief. Doctors call these gels counterirritants because they contain ingredients that irritate the skin such as menthol, wintergreen oil, and eucalyptus oil. Rather than relieving pain, these gels and ointments make your skin feel hot and cold and distract you from your pain.

Topical Analgesics

Topical analgesics are products that contain salicylates, which give aspirin its pain relieving quality. Topical analgesics offer aspirin-like arthritis relief and also reduce inflammation because they are absorbed into the skin. However, if you are taking blood thinners or are allergic to aspirin, you should talk to your doctor before using a topical analgesic.

Chili Pepper Creams

Chili pepper seeds contain a compound known as capsaicin, which creates a burning sensation. Arthritis pain of joints that are close to the surface of the skin such as finger, knees, and elbows can be treated most effectively with creams that contain capsaicin. Capsaicin provides arthritis relief by depleting your nerve cells of a chemical called substance P, which your body uses to send pain messages. To see results, you will need to apply capsaicin creams to your joints for at least two weeks.

There are also prescription gels and patches for arthritis pain relief. Some gels contain the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, which provides relief for people that suffer from arthritis pain in the hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles, or knees. Diclofenac gel has to be massaged into your joints four times a day. Some doctors prescribe lidocaine patches for arthritis relief. These patches are placed over the painful joints for 12 hours at a time. Lidocaine numbs the area.

Both over-the-counter and prescription creams, gels, ointments, and patches can provide temporary arthritis relief but they shouldn’t take the place of your prescription arthritis medication or alternative arthritis pain relief treatment. There is no evidence that suggests that these products can be useful in the long-term. If you find yourself relying on these ointments and other products for arthritis relief, it could mean that your arthritis is worsening in which case you should talk to your doctor.
So there you have it. Over-the-counter gels and other products can be effective for temporary arthritis relief but they certainly are not a long term solution. Your best bet is to keep them on hand in case you have flares of pain but rely mostly on your prescription medication or an alternative treatment for long term relief.