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From Tiger Balm to Bengay, here are the 7 best creams, CBD oils, and gels to relieve pain

Reduce muscle aches and pains with the help of these products

Tiger Balm Muscle Rub
Tiger Balm Muscle Rub
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Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream
Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream
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Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream
Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream
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Biofreeze Cool the Pain Roll-On
Biofreeze Cool the Pain Roll-On
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Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion Ultra
Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion Ultra
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Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
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Icy Hot Max Strength Lidocaine Cream
Icy Hot Max Strength Lidocaine Cream
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Life happens and it's only a matter of time until we all have to deal with muscle aches and pain from everyday life. A good pain relief cream offers temporary pain relief and can even speed up healing and recovery by reducing inflammation caused by acute injury. Although these creams and rubs can't treat the underlying issue for chronic pains, they can, however, make pain much more manageable. Having tried multiple different gels, creams, oils, and roll-ons in recent years, we can tell you that not all types (to use the term generally) work the same for us as they might for you.

So if you try a CBD rub and don't experience much relief, don't give up on the whole category. Instead, try something with different ingredients like lidocaine or magnesium. And make sure you follow the directions, too — slathering on too much cream too often won't help, and it may cause irritation. To help you get started, here are the best pain relief creams so you can get rid of soreness and muscle cramps.

Tiger Balm pain relief cream jar next to a tin can.
Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm Muscle Rub

You probably know this already, but don't overdo it with the Tiger Balm. This stuff is 5% menthol (the highest concentration in our selections), 3% camphor, and 15% methyl salicylate. All told, that's 21% active topical pain relief ingredients — in other words, this stuff is intense.

But it is also a long-trusted source of relief from muscle pain, not to mention joint and spinal pain. Strongly consider wearing gloves while you apply it, as you really don't want a bit of Tiger Balm getting into your mouth, nose, or eyes.

Tiger Balm Muscle Rub
Tiger Balm Muscle Rub
Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream on a white background.
Johnson & Johnson

Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream

Experience maximum strength pain relief with Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream, infused with a refreshing tropical jasmine scent. This powerful cream effectively desensitizes aggravated nerves using the active ingredient 4% lidocaine HCl, providing numbing relief. Ideal for various areas of the body including the back, neck, shoulders, knees, elbows, hands, and wrists, as well as for addressing backaches, joint pain, and arthritis discomfort.

Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream
Bengay Pain Relieving Lidocaine Cream
Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream.
Extract Labs

Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream

Yes, $90 for a 2.8-ounce tin of muscle rub is crazy expensive. However, we've been using this stuff almost exclusively to treat a shoulder injury, and we can tell you this: You can put a price on pain relief, and it's a lot higher than $90 before it's too pricey. The 1,500-milligram cannabidiol (CBD) concentration in this formula is much higher than many other CDB muscle rubs. The blend of other ingredients, like jojoba, menthol, and shea butter are plenty relaxing and soothing on their own.

In years past, we were topical CDB skeptics, especially having used a few creams with lesser concentration of cannabidiol. In the search of relief from this damn shoulder sprain, we tried this extra-potent stuff, and the relief has been genuine and most welcome, lasting several hours after each application.

Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream
Extract Labs CBD Muscle Cream
Biofreeze Cool the Pain Roll-On with a white background.
Biofreeze

Biofreeze Cool the Pain Roll-On

Biofreeze is not going to fix that strained calf muscle or sprained knee, but it might just help get the pain off your mind. The active ingredient here is menthol, and it is present in enough concentration for quick cooling relief — think 4% compared to the 1% menthol of the Icy Hot.

Because this formula does not use other active ingredients, you can apply it up to four times a day, making it a great choice for relief from pain caused by minor injuries that you expect to heal sooner than later.

Biofreeze Cool the Pain Roll-On
Biofreeze Cool the Pain Roll-On
Ancient minerals magnesium lotion on a white background.
Ancient Minerals

Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion Ultra

First, let me be crystal clear: We're not advocating for, nor do we necessarily believe in the ability of, a topical magnesium product to enter the body and help offset a magnesium deficiency, which can cause everything from muscle cramps to gastrointestinal issues to sleep problems.

For relief from sore muscles or joints, however, a magnesium gel or lotion can provide temporary reprieve, reducing inflammation and tightness. Rub it in deeply and allow for maximum absorption (i.e., don't put on a shirt or pants too fast) and do be ready for a bit of itchiness along with your relief.

Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion Ultra
Ancient Minerals Magnesium Lotion Ultra
Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy cream on a white background.
Penetrex

Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy

Penetrex cream is used by seemingly everyone, from competitive marathon runners to people who face backaches every time they stand up out of a chair. What sets this cream apart from most other muscle rubs is that it does not use "cooling" agents like menthol or clove oil that effectively mask pain, but instead it's designed to reduce inflammation, actually removing the root cause of some pain. The relief effects aren't as immediate as with other options, but they are comparatively lasting.

Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Icy Hot Max Strength Lidocaine Cream.
Icy Hot

Icy Hot Max Strength Lidocaine Cream

Icy Hot has been around for years. It was the go-to for coaches and trainers back in high school, and we used the stuff after many a wrestling match back in the day and still use it semi-regularly today. The menthol in the formula creates a quick cooling and soothing sensation (yes, it gets a bit intense at times), and then the 4% lidocaine provides some relief by reducing nerve sensitivity in the area of application.

After a little while, you'll experience a vague warming sensation, thus the hot part of the name. We love this stuff, but definitely don't use it more than three times in one day, or else you'll get a rash.

Icy Hot Max Strength Lidocaine Cream
Icy Hot Max Strength Lidocaine Cream

Frequently Asked Questions

How do topical pain relief creams and muscle rubs work?

Topical pain relief creams work through various mechanisms depending on their ingredients. Here's a breakdown of the most common types

Counterirritants: These create a tingling or warming sensation that distracts from the underlying pain. Common ingredients include menthol (found in Icy Hot) and capsaicin (the spicy compound in chili peppers).

Local anesthetics: These numb the area they're applied to, blocking pain signals from reaching the spinal cord and brain. Lidocaine is a common example, often used in over-the-counter creams for muscle aches and sprains.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These reduce inflammation, which can contribute to pain. Diclofenac and ibuprofen are common NSAIDs found in topical creams, similar to their oral counterparts, but with fewer systemic side effects.

Other ingredients: Some creams may contain other ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin, which are thought to support joint health and reduce pain. However, evidence for their effectiveness is mixed.

Overtime, we all get aches and pains from workouts, running, doing manual chores/labor and yard work. Don't let those muscle aches slow you down by stocking up and using the best muscle rubs and pain relief creams.

Editors' Recommendations

Jeff Turbett
Former Digital Trends Contributor

Jeff Turbett is a health and wellness coach with over three years of experience transforming clients lives and physical health. He now resides outside of Miami, Fl, and before that, spent his life in Wisconsin - he knows the overwhelming benefits the outdoors can have on overall wellness.  Having been an athlete his whole life, he understands the importance of cross-training and the numerous benefits it can correlate to overall well-being. Jeff is also a contributor to other fitness publications.

 

For all editorial inquiries, email HERE.

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