The science behind pain relief creams

By Jensyn Hartzell

Sports Editor

Pain relief creams are used by many people for a variety of reasons like muscle soreness, injuries, or arthritis. 

According to PainPathaways Magazine, pain relief creams “are absorbed faster than pills and provide a localized relief,” which makes them more convenient than taking relief pills like ibuprofen. 

Examples of pain relieving creams would be IcyHot, Tiger Balm, or even Cannabidoil infused lotions.

To use, the relief cream is applied directly on the area in pain. Within a few minutes the pain  will slowly fade away.  But it is important to note that these creams do not actually heal the pain.

According to Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School, pain relief creams “provide a soothing sensation for a short while,” but also creates a “placebo effect” 

Harvard researchers further explain that in the absence of pain while having an injury can “benefit” the person in the moment, but not in the long run. 

There are many different types of pain relieving creams with different ingredients to aid users.

According to PainPathaways Magazine, the most common ingredients of pain relief creams are known as “counter-irritants,” which include menthol, eucalyptus oil, evergreen oil, and camphor oil. 

The Harvard Medical School reports that the menthol product creates a cooling sensation in the skin which can feel good, but is not “a treatment for pain or inflammation.” 

According to the Harvard Medical School, capsaicins are commonly used in pain relief creams because it is the ingredient that induces the “burning sensation” in the applied area  to create comfort. 

These two ingredients are both found in IcyHot, the pain relief cream that feels just like its name. Unlike Tiger Balm, another popular relief cream, who only uses menthol to create the cooling sensation. 

Salicylates, which include “the same ingredients and quality of aspirin” are another popular ingredient in these creams, according to PainPathaways. 

Cannabis-infused creams have also gained popularity over the last few years for pain relief. 

According to U.S. News, CBD creams are less likely to provoke allergic reactions, and also help a wider variety of problems aside from pain, like eczema and psoriasis. 

The only problem, according to U.S. News, is that some people “find it helps, while others don’t.” This means that a person will rather feel no effects of the cream or see a lot of benefits from it. 

Overall, pain relief creams can be more beneficial for minor injuries or daily chronic pain. 

Background research should be done if looking into buying a pain relief cream as the different types of creams can benefit different injuries or pains. For example, IcyHot is recommended to athletes because it is easily obtainable and especially fast working. 

 Featured Photo caption: IcyHot is one of the most well known pain relief creams. Photo by Rebecca Kanaskie.

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