The Lowdown: Muscle and Joint Pain Relief Creams and Gels

Pushing through the discomfort of sore muscles, aching joints, and painful swelling is no easy feat. Regardless of why we feel soreness and irritation when it comes to muscles and joints, there are temporary solutions that can help ease the pain while the body heals. One of the first things many turn to is some variation of an over-the-counter painkiller, like ibuprofen or advil. These can work, but not everyone wants to turn straight to taking a pill to ease the pain. Luckily there are alternative options to those looking for something a simpler. One of the most popular options comes in the form of a topical cream or gel designed to ease the unpleasantness you might feel, and allow you to continue on with your day. Pain relief creams and ointments aren’t just for athletes experiencing injury, they can be used by anyone.

Have you ever wondered just how they work to ease your pain? Or maybe you’ve been curious what some of the common ingredients these creams, rubs, and gels contain and what it is exactly that they do to relieve soreness, tension, and pain in muscles and joints. Wonder no longer, because we’re going in depth about just how these topical treatments work and some of the reasons people choose them. If you’re someone who is already in the know about muscle and joint pain relief creams you might be in the market for a new one. SSLA Lifestyle’s Soothe is the perfect addition to your after-workout routine, or for your family’s medicine cabinet.This all natural aloe-based  works great for muscle soreness, joint aches and pains, and even arthritis!


It is important to remember while discussing pain relief creams and gels that they temporarily relieve pain, and are not intended to treat the injury in which you may experience. For example, if you sprain your ankle pain relief ointment can help dull that pain but it will not heal the injury. These types of topical ointments have been around for longer than you’d think, being used to relieve all sorts of pain. How these ointments and gels work is something you may have thought about before, but never looked into. Well we’re here to tell you a lot of it stems from the ingredients found within the topical, some of which are very common in an array of different brands and types of ointments (gel, cream, balms, etc.). Menthol is one of these ingredients found in just about every muscle gel or cream on the market. Menthol falls into the category of what is known as counterirritants. Counterirritants do exactly as they sound: to fight back against the pain you’re feeling.

Menthol works by causing the skin to feel cool, which sounds very basic but there’s some science to it. As stated previously, muscle rubs and creams cannot heal your injuries but those with Menthol in them help to provide a distraction from the pain that some consider pleasant. Essentially, the menthol creates a cooling sensation by attaching to certain neuronal receptors. Methyl salicylate is also often found in muscle and joint pain relief topicals, and it is almost a partner to Menthol. What we mean by this is that the two ingredients work together to be counterirritants which trick the body into feeling something other than pain.

More than just working together to form a distraction of sorts methyl salicylate and menthol, when paired, allow the blood vessels of the applied area to open. This is known as creating vasodilation, which is the scientific title for when blood vessels dilate. This vasodilation happens close to the surface of the skin, and allows for increased blood flow to the area being treated. This is said to have a role in relieving the pain, as increased blood flow to the area where the cream or gel is applied can be helpful to the effectiveness of the topical. Something else these two ingredients combined do is allow the area of focus to feel both cool and then warm. To many the word menthol automatically means icy cold, but adding methyl salicylate to the mix allows the area of application to feel both sensations. Sending competing signals to the brain can help distract the body from feeling the pain underneath the ointment.


The final ingredient we’ll discuss often found in muscle and joint pain relief creams, gels, and rubs is Aloe. Not only is aloe a commonly found component to pain relief topicals, it’s something that anyone and everyone can recognize. Aloe, specifically aloe vera, is often associated with helping to heal sunburns but when it comes to soreness it can really come in handy; aloe plays an important role in the temporary pain relief aspect of topicals. The addition of aloe allows the other ingredients that work to temporarily eliminate the pain to penetrate deeper, thus having a better effect to the irritated and sore area. It is what is known as a carrier, and is harmless to your skin.

Now that you have some insight about some of the most common ingredients found in pain relief topical creams and gels, it can better allow you to choose exactly what’s right for your body. There are muscle and joint substances out there with many different ingredient labels, but now you know that a rub with menthol, aloe, and methyl salicylate is sure to temporarily give you some relief. Get back to your everyday activities whether they be a 6am workout, a hike through the forest, or chasing after the grand kids at the park. Don’t let your pain stop you from doing all the things you hope and dream of doing. Finding a good pain relief topical might have been complicated before, but armed with the information it should be as easy and cool as your pain after application!

SSLA Writer