Pain is a common sensation associated with an injury and certain diseases. Though we can tolerate this sensation to an extent, it can become quite an unbearable nuisance at times, and affect our day-to-day activities. Sometimes, pain can become so intolerable and agonizing that we may need the help of analgesics or pain killers. Pain killers are mainly of two types - oral and topical.
Pain Relieving Products for Topical Application
Aspirin is the most common oral analgesic that is used to relieve the excruciating pain and discomfort associated with many medical conditions. But the long-term use of such medication can produce several side effects, for which many people prefer to use the topical analgesics.
Counterirritants are basically menthol-based medicines, that irritate the skin and give a hot and cold sensation that can provide some temporary relief. Apart from menthol, counterirritants can include eucalyptus and wintergreen oil. The hot and cold sensation is produced due to the stimulation of the nerve endings present on the skin.
Counterirritants usually have a mild smell that easily disappears after application. The gel is light and non-greasy, and can be used for joint and muscle pain, and also for arthritis pain relief. Biofreeze, Flexall, and IcyHot are some common counterirritants that are used for pain relief.
Many topical creams contain salicylate, the active ingredient found in aspirin. Salicylates are quite effective in reducing the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. They can inhibit a substance, which is known as prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is a hormone-like substance that can aggravate pain and inflammation. Topical analgesics that contain salicylates include Aspercreme, BENGAY, Mobisyl, and Sportscreme.
Capsaicin is the natural ingredient found in pepper. The burning sensation produced by pepper can be attributed to this compound. It has the ability to alleviate pain by depleting the level of a particular neurotransmitter in the body. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that transmit signals to the brain. Medicines like Capzasin and Zostrix contain the active compound capsaicin, and they can provide relief in arthritis pain.
Gels and Patches
Along with creams, gels and pain-relief patches can be used for reducing pain and inflammation. The pain relieving gels usually contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Diclofenac gel can be used for osteoarthritis pain relief. But it can produce some side effects, like skin rash or redness on the area of application.
Along with gels, diclofenac patches are also available that can be used for sprains or strains. But people with chronic kidney diseases may not be able to use these patches. Some other commonly used pain-relief patches are Lidocaine patch, BENGAY patch, and Icy Hot patch.
Apart from topical creams, gels, and patches, the popularity of heat wraps are also growing rapidly. Compared to other pain relievers, heat wraps are a bit expensive, but they can provide considerable relief in pain and inflammation. It is believed that heat wraps help increase blood and oxygen flow to the affected area, and thereby alleviate pain and inflammation.
The effectiveness of most of the topical pain relievers, especially the creams and gels can be attributed to some specific compounds, like menthol and salicylate, which are actually obtained from spearmint oil, eucalyptus oil, wintergreen oil, and peppermint oil. These essential oils have analgesic, sedative, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties, due to which they are widely used in treating several diseases, and for producing commercial pain relievers.
Menthol, the active compound found in many topical medications, is obtained from peppermint and other mint oils, while methyl salicylate, which our body converts to salicylic acid, comes from wintergreen oil. Many people have found that these herbal medicines are as effective as the commercial pain relievers in easing muscle pain, joint pain and inflammation, headaches, and abdominal cramps.
So, topical pain relievers are basically used to get temporary relief from pain and inflammation. Though they cannot provide permanent relief, they can help reduce the over dependence on oral analgesics or painkillers, and thereby avoid some health problems that are associated with the overuse of these medications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.