9 Best Muscle Pain Relief Creams to Buy

Got a twinge you can’t quite shift? From 100-year-old remedies to upcoming creams on the market, we share the ultimate products for muscle pain relief. On this list are 9 creams everyone should have in their cupboard. One, in particular, is a game-changer…

Important ingredients in muscle pain relief creams

Many muscle creams have one thing in common: their ingredients. The best creams usually contain, menthol, lidocaine, capsaicin or salicylates. Each ingredient is effective in its own right, although some are more potent.

One study found that menthol-based products worked better for pain and muscle relief compared to ice. A systematic review of several studies revealed creams using salicylates are extremely effective for muscle pain.

However, revolutionary creams now include cannabinoids; an active compound of this is cannabidiol (CBD). And a tonne of research supports CBD’s benefits on muscle pain and tension.

CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory health product that works wonders for pain relief. Its healing properties, especially when applied topically, soothe and restore tired muscles. CBD has a dual purpose; it can also calm anxiety brought up by pain and ease anxiety-induced muscle tension.

How do pain relief creams work?

Muscle and joint pain relief creams work by directly targeting the area of pain. Some may find aspirin or ibuprofen takes around 20 minutes to work. Creams and gels generally target pain quicker as it is absorbed directly into the skin.

Menthol has a minty smell and tends to cool the skin which distracts from pain. They numb the area temporarily, which provides pain relief. Capsaicin – which derives from hot chilli peppers – creates a warm, tingling sensation. Heat boosts the blood flow to the area of pain, neutralising it fast.

Topicals containing CBD have been proven to reduce pain significantly more than placebos. Over 4,000 participants across 47 studies show that 29% found CBD was more effective. Results actually saw a 30% reduction in pain. Combining CBD with potent ingredients like menthol is a double whammy, both cooling and alleviating pain. These tend to be more long-lasting and penetrate quickly.

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What is the best cream for sore muscles?

The best creams are those that cool or heat the skin. We’ve looked into the 9 most popular creams and gels used globally. We’ve rated them based on effectiveness, scientific support and online customer ratings. Without further ado, here’s the ultimate review…

1.   Biofreeze

Biofreeze is a well-known brand which has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 worldwide. Its main ingredient is menthol, void of NSAIDs which can have side effects like indigestion, drowsiness or allergies.

They have a variety of products, from creams to patches, which are great for versatility. Biofreeze claims to provide pain relief for sore muscles, joints, backache and arthritis. The cream seems to be more effective for neck, back and hand pain compared to muscles. Yet the common people swear by it…

2.   Tiger Balm

A classic – and one you might remember from having a blocked-up nose. What you may not know is Tiger Balm is a menthol-based product, with active ingredients that support muscle pain and arthritis pain. This topical cream was originally developed in the 1870s by a Chinese herbalist and continues to be trendy.

Tiger Balm has a solid 4.6 rating by over 7,000 people. In terms of its efficacy, Tiger Balm was significantly better for pain relief than placebo. However, it was also as effective as paracetamol.

3.   ShelleySupply Muscle and Joints Cream

A new product on the market is ShelleySupply’s Muscle and Joints cream – definitely one to have on your radar! With impressive 5-star reviews, this CBD cream gets the job done. Use it as part of your bedtime routine to iron out kinks in tired or aching muscles. You can also try CBD patches which are very convenient if you’re on the go and need instant relief.

Its ingredients contain shea butter which moisturizes the skin, menthol to cool the skin, with CBD to reduce inflammation. This is a 3-in-1 product that will come in handy, whether for a sports injury or everyday muscle tension.

4.   Deeb Heat Rub

The UK’s approved brand, Mentholatum, specialises in heat therapy. The Deep Heat rub is arguably their most popular product, with 4,500 reviews and a rating of 4.6/5.

The main ingredient is methyl salicylate (12.8%) with, you guessed it, menthol (5.91%). It also contains eucalyptus oil which is efficacious against arthritis mainly. Be warned, Deep Heat really does burn and smells medicinal.

5.   Rugby Capsaicin Cream

Big on the market is the Rugby Capsaicin cream, which has over 2,000 reviews globally with a rating of 4.2.

The NICE recommendations of use suggest applying a pea-sized amount of cream at least 3 to 4 times a day for results. However, studies show that capsaicin topical cream steadily reduces pain in 60 days. So if you’re looking for fast pain relief, this might not be top of your list. Capsaicin’s a slow burner, (pardon the pun).

6.   Bengay

Bengay cream’s main component is methyl salicylate (30%) which targets minor pain including arthritis, backache, and muscle and joint pain. As we’ve seen, salicylate is a highly effective agent, especially when applied to the skin.

This cream has 398 reviews with a decent 4.2 rating. Whilst a youthful product, the science is strong.

7.   Stiff Mother Trucker

Stiff Mother Trucker is an American yoga brand that developed a topical cream for muscle pain. It’s made with 100% natural ingredients, approved by truck drivers, doctors and fitness professionals.

It’s a fusion of menthol, capsicum and even lavender, which relaxes and soothes muscle pain. The cream has promising 5-star reviews, although there are currently no scientific studies that support it. However, for £15 it seems like a bargain.

8.   Volini

If you’re looking for a durable solution that soothes and prevents muscle pain, get your hands on Volini. It’s a gel-based product that contains menthol and methyl salicylate as well as diclofenac.

Transdermal application of diclofenac has been effective for rheumatic diseases. It’s therefore an in-demand over-the-counter product. Its effects usually last for 12 hours, although this depends on the level of your pain. 

Volini is an Indian-born product which has a 3.5-star rating from 2,000 people. It’s one to keep your eyes on, although it has mixed reviews.

9.   Arnicare

Finally, Arnicare. It’s rooted in homoeopathy which claims to have powerful healing properties. Even though this cream has over 11,000 reviews and stands at 4.6 out of 5, there are mixed feelings about its efficacy. It may actually be better for bruising as opposed to muscle and joint pain.

Arnicare gets a good rep but studies show it might not actually be that effective for pain relief. In fact, one trial even found this cream actually increased pain after 24 hours. Although the main ingredient (arnica) has similar properties to antibiotics, it might be better when ingested than topically applied.

Before you go…

  • Annoying muscle pain can be alleviated with topical solutions.
  • Try using topical creams that contain effective ingredients like menthol and CBD which provide fast-acting pain relief.

If you’re struggling with stubborn or persistent pain, speak to your doctor to find the root cause.