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A guide to anti-inflammatory creams

To ease the pain and stiffness from arthritis, try anti-inflammatory ointments. They can also provide topical pain relief in cases of back pain or minor sports injuries. These creams work when they are absorbed through the skin and are a great substitute for pain medications.

Menthol creams

A topical cream that contains menthol provides fast cooling relief for pain and inflammation. The sensation can provide temporary relief, without negative side effects. In one study that involved patients with knee osteoarthritis, use of a topical pain cream containing menthol was effective for reducing pain. There are a number of different over-the-counter anti-inflammatory cream products that contain menthol as an active ingredient such as Tiger Balm and Mineral Ice. To make a home-made cream, add peppermint essential oil to an unscented lotion and apply to the skin.

Capsaicin creams

Capsaicin is the compound found in peppers that makes spicy peppers hot. The more capsaicin there is in the pepper, the hotter it is. There are many health benefits of this compound such as supporting heart health and stimulating metabolism, but it is also beneficial when applied topically through a pain cream or ointment. Look for creams that contain capsaicin as the active ingredient. As with menthol creams, they will temporarily reduce pain and stiffness from arthritis. They may cause a sensation of pain or be slightly irritating at first. Once this initial irritation passes, the overall pain eases. Be careful not to use capsaicin creams on open wounds or broken skin. To make a home-made topical ointment with capsaicin, mix together a small amount of cayenne powder with olive oil, enough to make a paste. Add five drops of wintergreen oil. Apply to the skin and then wash off when ready.

Topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory creams

Aside from ointments or creams that contain menthol or capsaicin, some
anti-inflammatory cream products contain salicylates. These compounds are also effective for reducing inflammation, swelling, stiffness and the associated pain. Salicylates are the active compound that is found in aspirin, a
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. While great for topical pain relief, excessive use of salicylates can have negative side effects. For people who suffer from the chronic pain and inflammation of arthritis, or who have temporary inflammation from an injury, these ointments and creams are a great tool for temporary relief. They may replace some of the need for oral pain relievers, which can have negative effects on well-being when taken regularly. References Web MD ( (Adding menthol to arthritis cream improves results)
Mayo Clinic (

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