Pain Relief Creams Safety: What to Know

Pain Relief Cream Safety Aching Knees
Topical pain relief products may be over the counter, but can still come with risks.

Perhaps, you overly exerted yourself cleaning, exercising, dancing or sports to return home with aching muscles. As we age, it is also common for some of us to develop some degree of arthritis, which if mild we tend to treat in the same way with over the counter pain relief creams. Before you next use those creams again, there are some important things that you need to be aware of.

Pain relief creams like Bengay, Capzacin, Aspercreme, Salonpas, and countless others you find when shopping for over the counter remedies counteract the pain using either methyl salicylate, capsaicin to ingredients like menthol and camphor.  These products produce a comforting cool to warming sensation or a more intense burning sort of heat for managing the pain.

Understand the Difference of Ingredients for Pain Relief Creams Safety

To stay safe when using over the counter pain relief creams, it is a good idea to check the ingredients compatibility with any prescription medications that you may be taking first. For example, methyl salicylate like what is in Bengay and Salonpas is like a cream form of aspirin. However, this is a dangerous choice for someone that may be on blood thinning drugs. Anticoagulants such as coumadin also called warfarin sodium, anisindione to dicumarolor should never attempt using rubs with this particular ingredient. The same warning applies to those with an aspirin allergy. If you are on prescription medications, vitamins, herbal supplements on a regular basis, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any problems with drug interactions are likely to occur because ingredients such as methyl salicylate can accumulate into the skin.

Then again, you may not be taking any prescription drugs and just taking over the counter pain relieving drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Since pain relief creams can penetrate the skin, the active ingredient of methyl salicylate is also unwise to mix with other pain relieving drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen to keep your liver healthy. When you use a lot of over the counter pain relief regularly as well as rubs with such methyl salicylates creams, the salicylates can build up to cause the body problems.

Capasicin originated from hot chili pepper and works by blocking a chemical in the nerve cells that cause the pain through a burning effect. Just like an aspirin allergy, if you are sensitive and have an allergy to hot peppers, any creams with capasicin would be a huge mistake.

Capasicin dulls the pain with more intense heat that could be a less risky choice when used fairly often. Using a product with this ingredient at first could be hard to tolerate, but the intensity of the heat tends to lessen over time. Needless to say, you don’t want to go overboard with the amount that you use for rubbing. Make sure to read the directions because too much capasicin can redden and harshly burn that already sore area.

You can also find natural skin care based pain relief products with menthol and camphor for their part in cooling and help with inflammation. Clove and eucalyptus also can be in some of these to help the pain.

External Warnings to Be Mindful 

Aching Elbow for Pain Relief Creams Safety
A little precaution about the best way to treat that pain can keep you safe.

Always use the recommended amount of the rub and pay attention to how often you may apply.

Never attempt to double up on your choice of topical pain relief treatments. For those times that you use pain relief creams, skip the use of your heating pad. This could cause too much of the active ingredient absorbed into the skin.

Before you start rubbing with pain relief creams, check the skin for any cuts or open sores. Getting pain relief creams into raw skin can only increase the pain.

With any luck, you won’t need to rely on pain relief creams. For those times that you do, this information may help clarify the difference in how these pain relief creams may act for your benefit.



  1. gloria patterson
    March 13, 2019 / 3:02 pm

    Lots of good information here! I am a person who has lots of patches, rubs etc and use them. I like products that have capasicin in them and I have learned one very important thing about applying it. ALWAYS wear gloves when you apply rubs with capasicin in them. You can wash your hands but it is still there and if you touch your eyes oh you are in for a world of hurt.

  2. Alicia Hewitt
    March 13, 2019 / 5:58 pm

    I have Fibromyalgia, and CFS/ME, and use pain creams a lot. Thank you for this article. I didn’t realize using a hearing pad after applying cream could cause too much absorption of the active ingredient. I’ll stop doing that.

  3. tat2gurlzrock
    March 14, 2019 / 5:38 am

    These are great tips to remember. I try not to use pain creams at all if I can help it.

  4. March 18, 2019 / 6:52 pm

    I have a bad back and live in pain with pain creams on. I didn’t know these things. Thank you

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