Topical Solutions for Pain Relief

When used in combination with chiropractic treatment or cold laser therapy, topical creams can be an extremely effective method to eliminate pain. Our clients love topical pain relief because it can be done in the comfort of their own home, plus it’s not expensive. But how does it work?

The majority of topical pain relief gels are made with menthol, which is responsible for the cooling sensation. But the menthol sends important signals to your brain as well. The menthol tricks your mind into a temperature change, which responds by numbing your nerves. This process is consistent and effective, as it’s able to provide you about 3 hours of pain relief.

Before we dive into a breakdown of these topical pain relief options, it’s important to note that pain relief is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for your friend might not be the best option for you. The purpose of this article just to provide you with those options so you know what’s out there. A chiropractor can help you choose what’s best for you – book a visit today.

Here are some common topical pain relief options:

CryoDerm Gel

CryoDerm lineup of products

One of our preferred topical pain relief options, CryoDerm Gel, is known for producing a deeper and more intense cooling sensation – it just takes longer to kick in. That’s because the menthol level sits at 10% – more than double some of the other products on this list. What does that extra kick of menthol get you? Besides a stronger cooling affect, CryoDerm Gel can last up to 5 hours as opposed to the industry-standard 3 hours.

The downside is that CryoDerm Gel is more likely to cause irritation of the skin. That extra menthol takes its toll on some people with sensitive skin.


person applying biofreeze

Another one of our preferred topical pain relief products, BioFreeze is a popular option for many. Compared to CryoDerm Gel, BioFreeze uses far less menthol. At 4% concentration, it’s less than half of what you’ll find in CryoDerm Gel. What does that mean?

After you apply BioFreeze to your effected area, the cooling sensation will be less subtle and intense, but more immediate, making it the ideal product for fast pain relief. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll also notice that BioFreeze is less harsh and less likely to cause irritation. The only downside is that the pain relief from BioFreeze starts to die off in about 2 hours, so you’ll need to apply it more often.

Read our complete comparison guide: ‘CryoDerm Pain Relief Gel Vs. BioFreeze: Which Is Best For You?

Icy Hot

Icy Hot cream

Icy Hot makes a variety of both patches and creams for at-home pain relief, but they all rely on the cooling sensation to relieve pain. Icy Hot products use counterirritants like methyl salicylate, camphor, and capsaicin (along with menthol), which all produce that same numbing sensation.

Icy Hot is a great option for minor joint pain, an aching back and sore muscles, plus injuries like sprains, strains and cramps. For more serious injury, there are Icy Hot formulations that contain something called lidocaine, an anesthetic that numbs pain by blocking nerve conduction and transmission of pain signals.

Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm product

Tiger Balm is a topical cream known for relieving muscle and joint discomfort that’s been around for 100 years now. Tiger Balm has a range of products and subsets with various formulas that target different injuries and different people. Their ‘red’ formula contains menthol and camphor, while their ‘white’ formula uses menthol and methyl salicylate. Tiger Balm’s classic ‘Pain Relieving Ointment, Ultra’ contains 11% menthol, so be wary if you have sensitive skin.

While it isn’t a solution for treating serious chronic pain, Tiger Balm is a great option for exercise-related injuries and back pain. Some people even apply Tiger Balm to their chest and head to aid with congestion.


Voltaren product in box

Voltaren is similar to the other topical pain relief products in this article, except Voltaren contains an extra compound called diclofenac. This nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug blocks enzymes that produce important inflammatory mediators like prostaglandins and thromboxanes.

As a result, Voltaren is able to reduce inflammation, pain, fever, and swelling when you rub it on your skin. If you have arthritis, this a great option.

CBD Patches

CBD topical product

Our final pain relief product is the CBD patch. There are various brands out there, but we’re just focusing on the method itself since it is different from the other topical options in this article. First off, CBD patches do not use menthol, which means there is no cooling sensation or subsequent numbing of the nerves.

CBD patches rely instead on the transdermal method. By sticking the patch to your skin, your body will absorb it and allow the CBD to bypass your digestive system and enter directly into your bloodstream.

The results are not the same as topical creams. This transdermal method takes longer to kick in, but once it does it lasts a lot longer, eliminating the need to re-apply multiple times per day. CBD research is in the early stages, but the compound does have quite a history with pain relief. The pain relief properties of CBD are definitely solid, but it affects the entire body, not just the area you apply the patch to.

Topical pain relief works best alongside consistent chiropractic treatment. The creams and patches will certainly help with your pain in the moment, but at the end of the day they’re a short-term solution. If you’re experiencing back pain, joint pain or muscle soreness, book an appointment for an adjustment or cold laser therapy to get to the root of your pain. You can also give us a call at 604-824-1004, or visit our Chilliwack office at #102 – 45744 Gaetz Street.

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