What to Know About Aspercreme

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Some people find the over-the-counter (OTC) product Aspercreme a helpful aid for arthritis or minor muscle aches and pains. However, you may not know that the various products with this label contain different active ingredients.

Aspercreme can be applied in a variety of ways, such as through a traditional cream, patch, gel, spray, or roll-on product. You may find certain forms more effective or pleasant to use than others. 

Closeup of Adult Woman Rubbing Hand Cream Into Her Hands Outdoors

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Uses

Aspercreme is a topical pain reliever, meaning that it is applied to your skin. Such pain relievers might be helpful for problems like:

  • Pulled or sore muscles 
  • Muscle sprains or strains
  • Backache
  • Other minor aches and pains

Aspercreme tends to work better for temporary problems, like a pulled muscle. However, some people also find it helpful for more chronic problems, like osteoarthritis pain. 

Aspercreme Ingredients

Aspercreme is available in a variety of formulations. Each product contains an active ingredient—the ingredient responsible for its pain-relieving properties. Different active ingredients work in distinct ways to reduce your pain. 

Each product also contains various inactive ingredients which contribute to other features, such as the product’s fragrance and texture. 

Original Aspercreme

The original version of Aspercreme contains a compound called trolamine salicylate as its active ingredient. Trolamine salicylate is a pain-relieving compound closely related to aspirin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Aspercreme containing this active ingredient comes in a cream version only.

Aspercreme With Lidocaine

Most Aspercreme products fall into this category. Lidocaine is a numbing medication, such as might be used at the doctor’s office if you had to get a minor procedure. Aspercreme products containing lidocaine numb the area where you apply it, at least until the drug wears off. 

Aspercreme products contain the maximum percentage of lidocaine currently approved for over-the-counter use. 

Versions containing lidocaine include: 

  • Lidocaine cream
  • Lidocaine patch
  • Lidocaine spray
  • Lidocaine liquid roll-on

Some people like the non-cream versions of Aspercreme, finding them easier and less messy to apply.

Within these categories are some specific choices. For example, there are versions of lidocaine cream advertised for foot care. These contain the same amount of active ingredient (lidocaine), but also include moisturizing inactive ingredients.

The liquid roll-on category also offers a variety of choices. There is a fragrance-free version, plus several other versions containing essential oils, such as lavender or bergamot orange.

Aspercreme With Capsaicin

Aspercreme also comes in versions which contain capsaicin as the active ingredient instead. Capsaicin has slightly different pain-relieving properties. Many people are familiar with the slight warming sensation that you feel when you use it.

This version of Aspercreme is available as a gel and as a patch. 

Before Using

Before using Aspercreme, you should familiarize yourself with the product instructions found on the package insert. By using the product as intended, you’ll reduce your chance of potential side effects. 

When using any Aspercreme product, remember the following: 

  • Keep Aspercreme out of your eyes.
  • Avoid getting Aspercreme in your other mucous membranes, such as the lining of your nose.
  • Do not apply the product to any area of skin that is irritated, damaged, or wounded.
  • Do not use it over large areas of the body.
  • After you apply Aspercreme to an area, do not bandage the area tightly.
  • Do not apply a heating pad to the area.
  • Do not use expired products.

You should also not double up on Aspercreme products or other types of topical pain relievers. For example, you shouldn’t apply a layer of original Aspercreme and then put an Aspercreme lidocaine patch on that same area.

Original Aspercreme

The active ingredient in original aspercreme is closely related to aspirin. Because of this, if you have an aspirin allergy, you should talk to your doctor before using this version of Aspercreme. 

It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are taking any medications that affect your blood’s ability to clot, like warfarin. There’s a small chance that using original Aspercreme might affect this as well.

Aspercreme With Lidocaine

If you know that you are allergic to lidocaine, do not use Aspercreme products containing lidocaine.

Aspercreme With Capsaicin

When using Aspercreme containing capsaicin, you’ll need to follow some additional precautions:

  • Avoid putting the product into any skin folds.
  • You’ll need to discontinue use about an hour or so before a bath or a shower.
  • Keep the area out of direct sunlight or heat.
  • Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Special Populations

Aspercreme products containing capsaicin should only be used in people 18 years or older. Other Aspercreme products can be used in people aged 12 and older. Talk with your doctor first if you'd like to use these for a younger person.

People who are nursing or pregnant should also talk with their doctor before using these products. 

How to Use Aspercreme 

Using Aspercreme is pretty intuitive. You’ll apply the product to the affected area. For all Aspercreme products, don’t apply more frequently than is directed on your packaging insert. 

Cream Formulations

For cream formulations of Aspercreme, apply in a thin layer every 6 to 8 hours. Don’t use it more than three times within a 24-hour period.

Roll-on Liquid Formulations

Similarly, these can be applied in a thin layer every 6 to 8 hours. Don’t use more than three times within a 24-hour period.

Aspercreme Patches

Make sure the area is clean and dry. Then attach the patch per the package instructions. Do not reuse patches. 

One lidocaine patch can be used for up to 12 hours. For capsaicin patches, you can use the patches once every 8 hours, but no more than three times a day. 

Aspercreme Spray

Spray on the product every 6 to 8 hours, but no more than three times in a 24-hour period. It will dry quickly, so you don’t need to rub it in.

Aspercreme Warming Gel

Apply a thin layer to the affected area and massage it in using the product applicator. Wash your hands thoroughly after putting it on. Reapply if needed, but no more than three to four times a day.

Ingestion Warning

No version of Aspercreme is meant to be taken internally. Keep these products out of the reach of young children. Dispose carefully of any used patches so that children or pets do not chew them. If any product is chewed or swallowed, call a Poison Control Center right away.

Side Effects

Slight redness or irritation can be a potential side effect of any of these products. In extremely rare cases, a person might be allergic to one of these products and experience more extreme symptoms such as severe rash or difficulty breathing.

Call for immediate emergency assistance if you experience severe symptoms of a possible anaphylactic reaction, such as difficulty breathing.

Potential Side Effects From Capsaicin

Capsaicin works quite differently than the active ingredients in other forms of Aspercreme, and it has some different potential side effects. It’s not uncommon to experience a kind of burning sensation when you first start using it, but usually this goes away within a few days.

In extremely rare cases, people using products with capsaicin have experienced serious burns. Also, some people experience temporarily increased blood pressure. It might not make sense to use this product if your blood pressure is very high.

However, most instances of serious side effects from capsaicin have been in people using higher doses than those in Aspercreme products. The risk of these should be extremely low if you are using the product correctly (and aren’t, for example, applying more frequently than recommended).

But stop using the product immediately if severe burning sensations occur or if you feel otherwise unwell after using. 

When to Call Your Doctor

If redness or irritation does develop after applying any Aspercreme product, stop use. If these side effects persist, you may need to contact your doctor. If you have symptoms of outright skin injury, such as swelling or blistering, definitely seek medical attention.

You should also get in touch with your doctor if your original problem is getting worse or not getting better after a week or so (e.g., you have symptoms of muscle strain that don’t go away).

Other OTC Topical Pain Relievers

Aspercreme products are not the only types of topical pain relievers on the market. Some of these products contain the same active ingredients contained in some types of Aspercreme, and others contain other pain-relieving ingredients. 

For example, many products contain menthol (also called mint camphor). This is a substance that has been used since ancient times which seems to decrease pain sensations.

It may be worth experimenting until you find a formulation that suits you. However, remember not to use more than one type of product at the same time. 

Some examples of other OTC topical pain relievers are: 

  • Biofreeze: This is another popular pain reliever containing menthol as its active ingredient.
  • Bengay: Like Aspercreme, several different products are sold under the Bengay line. The “ultra-strength” version of Bengay contains three different pain-relieving active ingredients: camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate (another drug related to aspirin). There are also versions of Bengay that contain lidocaine.
  • Voltaren: This product contains diclofenac, another type of NSAID. Like the ingredient in original Aspercreme, it doesn’t numb the area but works to relieve pain at a more systematic level. It may work better than salicylate-related medicines (such as those in original Aspercreme).
  • Capsaicin-HD: This is a product containing capsaicin if you want to try this in another formulation. 
  • Icy Hot: This product contains the pain-relieving ingredients menthol and methyl salicylate. There are also versions containing lidocaine.
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