Ointments, creams, sprays, liniments, rubs & gels

Some quick and temporary forms of pain relief are rubs, gels, ointments, sprays and creams that are applied directly to your skin. There’s a vast array of them available, in many different forms and using different ingredients.

When you apply these products you’re actually benefiting from two things – the first is the product itself, the second is the mini-massage you enjoy when applying the product. Another benefit of these products is that they’re very portable – you can have some at home, in your desk drawer, in your handbag or in your gym locker and use them as needed.

The different ingredients used in these topical products include

  • CounterirritantsThese products have ingredients such as menthol, methyl salicylate, eucalyptus oil and camphor. They’re called counterirritants because they create a burning or cooling sensation that distracts you from your pain. You may know some of these by their distinctive smell, however, you can now get some that have little or no smell.
  • Medicated products. Many of the topical products contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It’s important to be aware of this, especially if you’re taking other NSAIDs. If you’re unsure, talk with your doctor or pharmacist before using a medicated topical pain reliever.
  • Capsaicin. This is the main ingredient of chili peppers and is effective for topical pain relief.


As with any medication, there are things you need to be aware of to prevent any problems occurring:

  • Always read the consumer medicine information carefully and follow the instructions.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after applying.
  • Be careful to avoid contact with your eyes or other sensitive areas.
  • Don’t use these products on wounds or damaged skin.
  • Don’t use with heat packs as this may cause burns.
  • Check the use-by-date and discard any out-of-date products.

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