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Medically reviewed by Beth Holloway, RN, M. Ed,
February 28th, 2020

Back pain relief topical treatments approved by experts: 

  • Asperecreme Maximum Strength Pain Relieving Cream

  • IcyHot Extra Strength Pain Relieving Cream

  • Salonpas Deep Pain Relieving Gel

  • Wellpatch Warming Pain Relief Patch

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people miss a day of work or visit their doctor. It can happen for many reasons. Anything from the way you sit at work to more serious conditions--such as a muscle strain--can cause you discomfort. 

And when visiting the doctor isn't an option, people turn to the internet to find answers from product reviews, blogs, or social media. However, these sources are often unreliable. 

If you are looking for immediate results, back pain relief topical treatments might be a great option for you. They come in many forms, such as gels, creams, ointments, balms, drops, or patches.

Back pain relief topical treatments are absorbed through the skin. This makes them very effective at treating pain in the muscles and joints closer to the surface.

Although there are a variety of choices out there, back pain relief topicals usually work in one of three ways:

  1. By distracting you from pain

  2. By blocking pain signals from reaching the brain

  3. By numbing pain and reducing inflammation 

Topical solutions also tend to be a safer option than ingesting pain medications. Long-term use of oral painkillers has been shown to cause gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach irritation and ulcers.

Here at Goodpath, we're here to help. Our medical team recommends specific products backed by science and tested for effectiveness. 

We also understand that what may work for one person may not work for another. We build custom, personalized treatment plans catered to fit your needs. Take our quiz today to see yours.

Here are some of our favorite back pain relief creams, recommended by our medical team. 

Lidocaine

Lidocaine is a great choice for those with deeper, neuropathic pain.

How it works:

Lidocaine is a local anesthetic. When you apply lidocaine to the back, it numbs the area for a period of time. There is some evidence that nerve pain is a major contributor to lower back pain. Lidocaine works by blocking the pain signals from the nerves, making it a great option in these cases.

Our recommendation for back pain relief products with lidocaine:

Asperecreme’s Maximum Strength Pain Relieving Cream

Why we recommend it: *quote from the medical team

 How to use Aspercreme Maximum Strength Pain Relieving Cream:

Apply a thin layer to the desired area every six to eight hours. 

Do not use the cream more than three times in 24 hours.

 

Precautions about products with lidocaine:

Do not apply products with lidocaine to areas of your skin that have a cut or scrape.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask a doctor before using products with lidocaine.

 

Counterirritants: Menthol & Camphor

Counterirritants interact with nerve endings in such a way that it may distract you from pain.

 

Menthol: overview

Menthol is the substance in mint plants. It may provide natural pain relief when applied to the skin. 

 

How it works:

When you apply menthol to your skin, it opens your blood vessels. This increases blood flow and helps with healing. It also administers a cooling effect that can soothe aggravated muscles and joints.

 

Our recommendation for back pain relief products with menthol:

 

IcyHot Extra Strength Pain Relieving Cream

 

Why we recommend it: (quote from medical team)

 

How to use IcyHot Extra Strength Pain Relieving Cream:

Apply a thin layer to the affected area.

Massage onto the pain site until completely absorbed by the skin.

Repeat as needed, but do not use more than three to four times a day.

Allow a two to a three-hour window between applications.

 

 Dr. Blue Cool Pain Relieving Gel

How it works:

The menthol works together with other active ingredients, like MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane. MSM is a nutrient used to help with muscle and joint pain. Dr. Blue Cool Gel is also comprised of essential oils, such as that of emu, that can help heal and soothe the skin.

 

How to use Dr. Blue Cool Pain Relieving Gel:

Apply to the affected area three to four times daily. Wash your hands after use.

 

Precautions about products containing menthol:

  • Never apply the product to broken skin.

  • Do not bandage or wrap the skin after using the medication.

  • Avoid heat and sunlight during usage.

 

 

Salicylates

Salicylate is a chemical derived from salt acids. People are familiar with aspirin, which is a type of salicylate.

 

How it works:

Topical salicylates distribute numbing and cooling sensations when applied to the skin.

You may come across a lot of topical products with a combination of menthol and methyl salicylate. That is because salicylates are more effective at treating pain when other ingredients, like menthol, are in the solution.

 

Our top back pain relief products with salicylates:

 

Why we recommend it: quote from the medical team.

 

How to use (add product name)

Make sure your skin is clean and dry before you apply any type of salicylate topically.

Apply a thin layer to the affected area and rub it in until it is absorbed.

You can use salicylate topicals up to four times a day or as instructed by the product packaging.

 

Precautions about products with salicylates:

  • Stop using the product immediately and seek medical attention if there is any severe burning, irritation, or blistering.

  • Do not cover the affected area with a bandage or heat wrap as doing so may increase any sensations from the product.

  • Avoid contact with face and eyes. Wash hands immediately 

 using this product.

  • Avoid applying salicylate topical medications before or after bathing.

 

Camphor: overview

From the wood of the camphor laurel tree, camphor is a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved concentrations less than 11 percent for use as a natural painkiller. It is found in creams, rubs, and ointments.

 

How it works:

When camphor absorbs into the skin, it appears to stimulate nerve endings that ease symptoms of pain and itching. 

 

Our top back pain relief products with camphor:

Salonpas Deep Pain Relieving Gel

Why we recommend it:

(Quote from medical team.)

 

How to use Salonpas Deep Relieving Gel:

  1. Clean and dry the desired area

  2. Apply a dime-sized amount to the area of pain, but no more than three to four times a day.

 

 Bengay Topical Analgesic Cream

 

Why we recommend it:

Quote from medical team. 

 

How to use Bengay Ultra Strength Topical Analgesic Cream:

Apply the product to the painful area no more than three to four times daily.

 

Precautions about products containing camphor:

  • Contact your doctor immediately if you have signs of a severe allergic reaction after using camphor, such as severe burning, irritation, or itching.

 

Capsaicin 

Capsaicin is the active ingredient found in chili peppers that gives them their kick. You might not know that it has an awesome medicinal use, too.

 

How it works:

When you put capsaicin on your skin, it activates specific nerve receptors. If this process is repeated over time, the receptors start to lose their ability to process pain signals and send them to the brain. Products with capsaicin can help to treat many conditions, including back pain.

 

Our top back pain relief products containing capsaicin:

 

Capzasin Quick Relief Gel

 

 

Why we recommend it: (quote from medical team. )

 

How to use Capzasin Quick Relief Gel:

Squeeze the desired amount of gel out of the container and onto the applicator.

Massage the product using the applicator onto the desired area until absorbed.

Use up to three to four times daily, or as needed.

 

Wellpatch Warming Pain Relief Patch

Why we recommend it: (quote from medical team)

 

How to use Wellpatch Warming Pain Relief Patch:

1. Open pouch to activate warming patch

2. Remove protective film

3. Apply the patch to the pain site, the adhesive (sticky) side towards the skin. 

4. You can also place the adhesive side towards clothing if you have delicate or aging skin.

5. For best results, apply to clean, dry skin free of oils or lotions

*Not intended for use for more than eight hours within a 24-hour window.

 

Precautions about products with capsaicin:

  • Do not use products with capsaicin if you are allergic to chili peppers.

  • Avoid open wounds when applying capsaicin.

  • Products containing capsaicin may cause some burning and irritation to the skin.

  • If the irritation is significant, do not continue to use products with capsaicin.

  • Ask your doctor before using capsaicin cream if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

 

-- 

Conclusion:

 

Topical solutions such as creams, salves, patches, and drops can serve as great alternatives to oral painkillers. 

 

Before starting a new treatment:

 

  • Make sure to read the warning labels, ingredient lists, and precautions.

  • Always test a small patch of skin before administering the rest of the product.

 

If you are still not sure about which product to use, Take GoodPath’s quiz. We will build you a personalized kit with products suggested by our medical team designed to fit your personal needs.