Remedies That Help With Pain

Pain Management And Relief With Topical Medication

January 8th, 2018

Life with chronic pain can be difficult to say the least. Every day, you’re dealing with chronic pain that just won’t go away, but you still have to go about the rest of your day. Over 100 Million Americans suffer from chronic pain, so it’s an important topic to cover. There are so many topical brands out there, and we wanted to speak with an actual chronic pain patient about their experience with as many topical pain relievers as they had used.

Infographic about chronic pain management and relief with topical medication

Our interviewee didn’t want to be named, so we will call him Steve. Steve is a musician and writer who describes himself as being “very fortunate” for being able to work in both of his fields. However, a few years ago, Steve survived a car crash that could have easily claimed his life. Survivors often have scars, and the crash damaged both his hands and his spine. Steve now suffers from chronic back pain and intermittent hand pain. 65% of all chronic pain sufferers, or sixty-five million, suffer from chronic back pain. This is an issue that affect millions of lives across America, and millions more around the globe.

We wanted to ask Steve about his direct experience with certain products, as well as ask him what he uses to treat his chronic back pain. We also wanted to know what his routines were for dealing with different types of pains. “It doesn’t just hurt in the same place the same way all the time.” We wanted to understand and find the best topicals for chronic pain.  

Menthol Products

There are so many topical menthol products for pain relief; there’s no need to talk about each one individually. Cold therapy from menthol products has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as dull sensation in the area. However, in spite of the research, we wanted to know does menthol really work in treating chronic pain? For Steve, it does.

“Almost all of the products I use for chronic pain relief are menthol products.” When asked about his favorite menthol product, “I pretty much go with what is on sale at the time. Menthol is menthol; very few of them are different from one another.”

However, Steve did have a couple favorites, depending on the type of pain he’s experiencing:

Absorbine:  Absorbine brand products have been around a long time, and are still labeled as veterinary liniment. This was primarily a product for horses to help them recover after a long run. However, people have used veterinary liniment to treat pain for several decades. Absorbine comes in a few different forms, including gels and liquids. They are all the same formula at root, but have different applications.

“I like to use the gel on my back and shoulder muscles. It isn’t freezing cold and does provide some immediate relief. It also helps me feel less stiff over time. I use it almost daily.” He also said of the pocket-size Absorbine Jr.: “I like the applicator, and I like this formula for pain in my hands better than about anything else. The relief is instant and pretty intense. I feel like the sensation sits on the surface of your skin rather than sinking in. It definitely helps dull the nerve pain in my hands very fast.”

mineral ice gel for chronic pain relief

Mineral Ice: Mineral Ice is a strong, thick menthol gel that provides intense, deep cold relief to the area where it is applied. It is very important to wash your hands after use, since some topicals stick to skin for a long time, and touching your eye even an hour after use can cause extreme pain. “I have gotten other topicals in my eye before, but Mineral Ice was probably the worst. It hurt and also felt like half my face was frozen.”

Because of how deep and intense the cold sensation is, he doesn’t use it for every pain. “It’s almost an overwhelming amount of cold. Once I have it completely rubbed it in, it feels like I have ice under my skin; the whole area feels completely frozen. I only use it for the worst bouts of pain, like a pinched nerve or a pulled muscle. It’s really the only thing strong enough to attack some of the worst pains, but since it’s so cold, I save it just for those instances. It does dull the pain quite a bit during those times.”

Icy Hot

Icy Hot combines both Menthol and Methyl Salicylate. The idea is that it is supposed to be very cold at first to dull the pain, then warm to relax the muscle tissue. Many people, however, don’t feel the cold sensation at all, and many report a burning or stinging sensations rather than warm relaxation.

  1. It was never cold. Maybe for the first 30 seconds, but the cream just ended up making me feel that ‘pins and needles’ feeling over the whole area. It was more unpleasant than the pain I was trying to use it on, and even increased the severity of the pain; the sensation was so strange it made me more aware of everything I was feeling back there, including the pain.” When asked if he would ever recommend Icy Hot, the answer was a resounding, “No.”


bengay cream for chronic pain relief
It’s probably the only thing less helpful than Icy Hot in my mind, and to boot, it reeks.” Bengay combines both active ingredients in Icy Hot, as well as camphor. This is to stimulate the nerves which has been shown to decrease pain and relax muscles. It does have some side effects. Most are mild, but some can be more moderate, and can even cause poisoning, especially when ingested or applied on skin with any abrasions. Some people also experience skin irritation, and even burns.

“I was use to working with other pain relieving gels and creams and had never used Bengay. I was a little more generous with it than I should have been, but I actually ended up with a first-degree burn across a large portion of my back; it felt like a sunburn. I never used it again. Oh, and did I mention it just absolutely reeks?” Different patients react differently to different treatments, but needless to say Steve didn’t continue using Bengay.

Blue Emu

This is quite an expensive product compared to the other topical pain relievers. It is actually quite high in Omega. This makes it a good long-term product to help transdermally deliver Omega-3 Fatty Acids which have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body. This is a great long-term therapy and maybe even a different way to take supplemental Omega 3, but the immediate pain relief relief from the product is underwhelming.

“After applying it across most of my back and all over my hands, I didn’t feel anything. Granted, I’m used to pretty intense cold sensations for pain relief, but this didn’t have a sensation of any kind, and I didn’t notice that it helped with the pain.” When asked if he would use Blue Emu for its long-term benefits, “That’s not really what I am looking for in a topical pain reliever. I want immediate relief. Plus, it ain’t cheap. I get my Omega 3’s in other ways.”

What Helps Pain wants to bring you the best information, gathered from article research and personal interviews, to help you find the best pain relief. We want to provide you with the best options and the most variety to help treat your pain. We aim to build a helpful, understandable, personal database of articles that will help you know the most about pain treatments, and help you choose what is best for you.