7 Popular Arthritis Cream Products

How Active Ingredients in Arthritis Creams Soothe Pain

Topical arthritis cream products are preparations that are applied to the skin. Many of these products can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) and are effective for soothing minor joint and muscle pain associated with arthritis.

Arthritis creams vary slightly, though they all are applied in the same way. Some contain the active ingredient salicylate, while others are based on the pain-relieving effect of capsaicin or menthol. You will find some that have a distinct odor and others that are less noticeable.

Let's take a look at some of the most common creams you can find and discover how they work.


Woman applying cream to elbow
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The active ingredient in Zostrix is capsaicin, a botanical extract from chili peppers. This one comes from the cayenne pepper specifically. It has been shown to reduce levels of substance P, a chemical involved in transmitting pain impulses to the brain. When applied to the surface of the skin, it has a pain-relieving effect. 

With any capsaicin product, it is best to protect your hands when applying it, so think about wearing gloves or using a cloth. Use the same precautions you do when cooking with hot peppers. Wash your hands thoroughly, especially before touching your eyes or any sensitive body part.



Bengay Arthritis Cream is a well-known product that has passed the test of time. It comes in a variety of formulas with "Ultra Strength" being the strongest for pain relief. The active ingredients include camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate.

The one drawback to Bengay Ultra Strength is the smell, which can be quite strong. It can remain on your clothing as well. However, many people who use it say that they can look past this because it is so effective. Bengay does offer a "Vanishing Scent" gel.



Aspercreme is another common name in topical pain relief. They too offer a few products, including creams, a heat gel, and a lotion. For most, the active ingredient is trolamine salicylate, though there is a cream available with lidocaine.

Each Aspercreme formula is designed to temporarily relieve minor pain associated with arthritis, simple backaches, muscle strains, and muscle sprains. Many people prefer these products because they do not have that medicinal odors of other arthritis creams.



Icy Hot is a topical arthritis formula that has dual action. The coolness dulls pain and the heat helps the muscles relax. Again, there are different formulas and ways to apply it, though the cream is among the most popular.

The active ingredients are methyl salicylate and menthol. Many people find it effective for fast pain relief that lasts quite a while. It's especially good for sore muscles, backache, muscle cramps, and joint pain.

Due to the burning sensation it produces, take caution when applying it with bare hands. Wash your hands thoroughly and even consider wearing gloves.



Just because it's named Sportscreme, doesn't mean it can't relieve arthritis pain as well. This topical analgesic works fast and can offer temporary relief from minor pain associated with sore muscles, muscle strain, and stiffness.

Many people prefer this one because it does not smell like medicine and it is not greasy. The active ingredient is trolamine salicylate and it works best when thoroughly massaged into your skin.



Tiger Balm can be an effective product for relieving arthritis pain temporarily. It works more as a counterirritant that cools and warms the skin and it has a strong menthol scent.

Based on a "secret" herbal Chinese formula, Tiger Balm includes the active ingredients of camphor, menthol, cajuput oil and clove oil.

The product line has expanded beyond the original tiny jars, which are admittedly difficult for some people to use. They now offer a variety of rubs and one that is particularly formulated for arthritis that comes in an "arthritis-friendly pump."



Mineral Ice uses menthol as the active ingredient and it is very cooling when applied. With menthol comes that strong minty-medicinal scent, but many people who use this product swear by it for pain relief.

The gel remains true to the original formula that offers "Deepcold" pain relief temporarily. It is recommended for arthritis as well as bruises, backaches, strains, and sprains.



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