We know that topical products can be just as effective as other pain relief systems. We also know that it is important to consider the active ingredients when choosing a topical pain relief product. While many products rely on the cooling properties of menthol, there are numerous other ingredients that can produce similar effects.
One popular compound used in many topical preparations is Methyl Salicylate (wintergreen oil). Methyl Salicylate is an effective pain reliever; however, studies have shown that products containing Methyl Salicylate are more effective in treating acute pain than chronic pain.
Preparations containing Camphor relieve pain, reduce itching and swelling, increase local blood flow, and act as counter-irritants. Although Camphor has many beneficial properties, it should not be applied to broken skin as it can enter the body and reach concentrations high enough to cause poisoning.
Copper is another ingredient that is regularly used for its anti-inflammatory properties. In 1939, a German doctor named Werner Hangartner noted that Copper miners from Finland never suffered from arthritis, although rheumatism was rampant. The doctor went on to use Copper to treat many of his patients. Today, Copper is incorporated into many products for its antimicrobial activity and ability to treat swelling and pain.
It seems counterintuitive to use Stinging Nettle as a pain reliever, but it actually contains pain relieving properties. Certain chemicals from the Stinging Nettle, when isolated and combined with Isopropyl Alcohol, provide relief from arthritic pain. It is the combination of the nettle extract and alcohol that promotes the excretion of uric acid from the body, creating cooling and pain-relieving sensations.
Other ingredients that are commonly used in topical lotions include Arnica, which reduces muscle swelling; Calendula, which soothes the skin; Hamamelis Virginiana (witch-hazel), which reduces swelling and acts as an anti-inflammatory; and Peppermint, which contains anti-viral properties.
After consulting with your therapist, take the time to read the label on each product to determine which active ingredients are included. Everyone reacts differently to the various active components. It is important to understand how your body responds, so you can find relief from your pain.