1. Active Ingredients
    Common ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, camphor or eucalyptus provide a cooling or heating sensation on the skin that distracts the brain from underlying pain signals. Other creams use salicylates or lidocaine to physically block pain receptors.
  2. Onset and Duration
    Gels and thinner creams absorb most rapidly to provide faster acting relief within 5 minutes, but effects may only last 1-2 hours. Thicker creams take longer to absorb, but pain relief can persist for up to 8 hours.
  3. Odor and Texture
    Some pain relief creams have an unpleasant medicinal smell or greasy texture that users dislike. Non-greasy formulas with light, non-bothersome scents improve compliance with consistent use.
  1. Inflammatory Pain vs. Neuropathic Pain
    While pain relief creams can effectively address inflammatory muscle and joint discomfort, severe or nerve-related pain may not respond as well to topical analgesics alone since medication cannot penetrate deep enough.
  2. Clinical Research
    Look for pain relief creams backed by clinical trials demonstrating proven pain relief specifically for muscle aches, arthritis, tendonitis or other intended uses instead of just relying on generic inactive ingredient formulas.