How Salonpas Works to Relieve Pain

In This Article

Salonpas is a topical pain patch which is FDA-approved. Finding ways to relieve pain and inflammation is important for people with arthritis. Salonpas is just one treatment option for pain among many. Before deciding if Salonpas may be something you want to try, it is important to understand how it works and the possible side effects. You should also discuss it with your doctor.

A woman applying a pain patch
B. BOISSONNET / BSIP / Corbis / Getty Images


Salonpas offers a variety of over-the-counter pain patches to temporarily relieve mild to moderate pain. There was one specifically designed for arthritis pain relief, but it has been discontinued. Salonpas are the only over-the-counter topical pain patches approved by the FDA to date. Other over-the-counter patches are for minor pain.

Salonpas patches are thin, stretchable, and contain anti-inflammatory ingredients. The active ingredients are menthol (3 percent) and methyl salicylate (10 percent) which work together as a topical analgesic. A single patch is reportedly effective for up to 12 hours. Another variation of Salonpas contains capsaicin rather than methyl salicylate. There are 6 different Salonpas patches available along with one cream, one gel, one liquid, and one spray.


Salonpas is a product of Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical, a company whose history dates back to the mid-1800s. Salonpas was introduced in 1934 and was first distributed in Asia. The FDA approved the Salonpas Pain Relief Patch for the US market in 2008.

The manufacturer of Salonpas deemed the product safe and effective after evaluating placebo-controlled clinical trials which involved more than 800 patients.

How It Works

As a topical analgesic, Salonpas should only be used externally. The patch is transdermal, meaning that after the backing is removed, the patch is applied over the painful area and the medication is then absorbed through the skin.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, topical medications can be effective in reducing inflammation caused by arthritis and that, in turn, may relieve pain. Salonpas decreases proteins in the joint fluid that cause inflammation.

It is important that you use only one patch at a time, and it should be left in place for 8 to 12 hours. If you are still in pain, you can remove the patch and apply another one. The directions state that you should use no more than two patches a day and for no more than three days in a row.


Salonpas is indicated for the relief of mild to moderate aches and pains of the muscles and joints. It is often recommended for arthritis, backache, strains, and sprains. It is only for those age 18 and older.

Warnings and Precautions

Even though it is available over-the-counter, Salonpas is not entirely safe for everyone. It is very important to read the label before using the product and have a conversation with your doctor. Your medical history may indicate that these patches are not appropriate for you.

Stomach bleeding: Because Salonpas contains a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID, methyl salicylate, there is a risk of stomach bleeding. It may affect some people more than others. This is particularly true if you're over 60 years old, have a history of bleeding problems, or take blood thinners or corticosteroids. Also, there may be interactions with oral NSAIDs (e.g., naproxenibuprofen) or alcohol.

Skin irritation: Any topical medication can cause skin irritations and Salonpas is no different. It should not be used on your face or over any rashes, wounds, or other skin damage. If you notice any new skin irritations, stop using the patch.

Allergies: If you have an allergy to aspirin, NSAIDs, or other topical products, do not use Salonpas without speaking with your doctor.


It's recommended that you do not use Salonpas if you have any of the following indications.

  • You recently had or are going to have heart surgery.
  • You had an incident of stomach bleeding at some point in the past.
  • You have high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, or take a diuretic (water pill).
  • You are breastfeeding or are pregnant.
  • You are under 18 years old.

A Word From Verywell

Salonpas may be a good alternative if you have arthritis and need to treat inflammation, but you cannot tolerate oral medications or had an inadequate response with its use. Salonpas, like any medication, is associated with potential side effects, but they appear to be fewer than with oral NSAIDs. Nevertheless, it's important that you consult your doctor before trying any new product or treatment.

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Article Sources
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  1. Pergolizzi JV, Taylor R, Lequang JA, Raffa RB. The role and mechanism of action of menthol in topical analgesic products. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2018;43(3):313-319.

  2. Higashi Y, Kiuchi T, Furuta K. Efficacy and safety profile of a topical methyl salicylate and menthol patch in adult patients with mild to moderate muscle strain: a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, multicenter study. Clin Ther. 2010;32(1):34-43.

  3. Products. US Hisamitsu.

  4. The FDA approved the Salonpas Pain Relief Patch for the US market in 2008.

    Drug Approval Package: Salonpas. US Food & Drug Administration.

  5. Fight Arthritis Pain Without Pills. Arthritis Foundation.

  6. Frequently Asked Questions. Salonpas. US Hisamitsu.

  7. FDA warns about serious bleeding risk with over-the-counter antacid products containing aspirin. US Food & Drug Administration. 2016.

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