What is a good Anti-inflammatory cream for pain relief?

Anti-inflammatory cream for pain relief
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman

Key Takeaways

  • Joint or muscular discomfort may result from inflammation. Topical anti-inflammatory topical creams can help with pain and swelling from various injuries and medical illnesses.
  • Typical topical anti-inflammatory drugs include menthol cream, capsaicin cream, and Voltaren (diclofenac) gel.
  • Anti-inflammatory creams can provide advantages comparable to those of oral medications when taken as prescribed. They frequently have less adverse effects as well.


Imagine a world where your pain doesn’t just get masked but truly eased. That’s the promise of anti-inflammatory creams. But what makes one cream better than the rest? It’s more than just fancy labels.

Think of these creams as superheroes tackling pain. Some use ancient healers like arnica; others rely on modern science with ingredients like NSAIDs. But the common goal is clear – effective relief without compromise.

As you explore your options, it’s not just about what’s on the label but the mix of natural goodness and scientific smarts. The best cream isn’t just a quick fix; it’s a natural ally in the fight against pain. Join us as we uncover the secrets of these soothing creams and find the perfect blend of nature and science for genuine pain relief. It’s time to make your journey to comfort a little simpler.

What does an anti-inflammatory cream do?

Anti-inflammatory topicals are straightforward and often comprise natural anti-inflammatory substances or over-the-counter medications. Furthermore, topical anti-inflammatories are thought to have fewer adverse effects than oral anti-inflammatory drugs.

Increased fluid and white blood cells that fight infection are brought to an injury or infection location in the body to cause inflammation. This immunological reaction causes the area’s blood flow to rise, and fluids may seep into the tissues, resulting in redness, warmth, and edema. Although inflammation is the body’s standard biological defence mechanism, persistent inflammation, like in the case of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, can cause discomfort, protracted swelling, and cartilage loss. Analgesics such as anti-inflammatory lotions and balms can be administered topically to a particular body part to relieve sprains, strains, arthritis, and muscle aches. Topical anti-inflammatories may include natural cannabidiol (CBD) or pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen and Tylenol (NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

In contrast to NSAIDs, natural anti-inflammatories like CBD reduce pain and inflammation differently. The Endocannabinoid mechanism (ECS), a complex mechanism that aids in controlling our mood, hunger, sleep patterns, immunity, and other vital biological processes, is influenced by cannabidiol. All over the body, ECS receptors are bound by CBD, which inhibits the release of inflammatory chemicals. Because CBD balm and creams are so effective and frequently contain natural, organic ingredients, a lot of people choose them over NSAIDs. 

The balm absorbs into the skin after application. After reaching the site of inflammation, it penetrates farther into the tissue. In the case of NSAIDs like ibuprofen, it acts by preventing the actions of enzymes that are involved in the production of prostaglandin. This substance exacerbates tissue pain and inflammation. Because heavy muscular tissue prevents anti-inflammatory creams from reaching the inflammatory site quickly, they work best when the irritated joint is relatively close to the skin.

Tired of the muscular pain? Get a prescription for anti-inflammatory gel at the comfort of your home!

What are the best prescription anti-inflammatory creams?

Some of the best-prescribed topical anti-inflammatory medications include:

Diclofenac Gel

Diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is available in gel form, offering targeted relief for localized pain and inflammation. Widely recognized under brand names Voltaren and Flector, it also comes in patches, providing flexible application options for various musculoskeletal conditions. It is one of the best anti-inflammatory gels. 

Ketoprofen Gel

As another NSAID, ketoprofen is formulated into a gel (Orudis, Oruvail) for effective localized treatment of pain and inflammation. This topical application serves as an alternative to oral medications, allowing precise targeting of specific areas for enhanced therapeutic outcomes.

Piroxicam Gel

Feldene, a gel form of the NSAID piroxicam, offers localized relief from inflammation associated with musculoskeletal disorders. Its application directly to affected areas provides a focused approach to managing pain, making it a valuable option in the treatment arsenal.

Flurbiprofen Gel

Flurbiprofen gel, available as Ansaid and Ocufen, is a topical NSAID designed for local pain relief and cream to reduce swelling. Its targeted action on specific areas makes it particularly useful for managing discomfort and inflammation in localized regions, offering a convenient and efficient treatment option.

Topical Corticosteroids

Examples include hydrocortisone, betamethasone, and triamcinolone. These are often prescribed for various skin conditions with an inflammatory component.

What is a good over-the-counter anti-inflammatory cream?

Some well-known OTC anti-inflammatory topical creams OTC include:

Ibuprofen Cream/Gel

Brands like Advil, Motrin, or generic equivalents may offer creams or gels containing ibuprofen, a nonsteroidal OTC anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Diclofenac Gel

Voltaren Gel is a topical NSAID that may be available over the counter in some locations.

Capsaicin Cream

Chilli peppers contain capsaicin, which is well known for its ability to reduce pain. OTC lotions containing capsaicin are available under brands like Zostrix and Capzasin.

Arnica Cream

Arnica is a natural herb with anti-inflammatory properties. OTC creams like Boiron Arnicare contain arnica and are used for muscle pain and inflammation.

Aspirin Cream

Some creams contain aspirin, another NSAID. Brands like Aspercreme may offer aspirin-containing formulations.

Menthol cream

Menthol creams, available over the counter, alleviate mild muscle or joint pain through counterirritant effects on inflammation. Strengths range from 1% to 12%, often combined with camphor, methyl salicylate, or CBD, as seen in products like Bengay and Icy Hot creams. These combinations enhance pain relief for diverse applications.

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How long does it take for inflammation swelling to go down?

Depending on several circumstances, including the reason and intensity of the inflammation, the time it takes for swelling to subside can vary greatly. A typical and intricate biological reaction to trauma, infection, or irritability is inflammation. The time it takes for swelling to go down can vary depending on several factors:

Acute Inflammation

In many cases, acute inflammation, which is the body’s immediate response to injury, may lead to swelling that peaks within the first 48 hours and gradually starts to decrease afterward.

Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation, which may persist over an extended period, takes longer to resolve. In some cases, chronic conditions may lead to persistent or recurrent swelling.

Type of Injury or Inflammation

The type of injury or inflammation also plays a role. For example, minor damage might resolve quicker than a more severe or systemic inflammatory condition.

Medical Treatment

The use of anti-inflammatory medications, both oral and topical, can help speed up the resolution of swelling. These medications may be prescribed or available over-the-counter.

Rest and Rehabilitation

Adequate rest, elevation of the affected area, and following recommended rehabilitation exercises can contribute to a faster recovery.

Underlying Health Conditions

Individuals with specific health issues, such as autoimmune disorders or chronic diseases, may experience prolonged or recurring inflammation.

Individual Variations

People’s bodies respond differently to inflammation; individual factors like age, overall health, and genetics can influence the healing process.

Consult a doctor

If persistent pain persists despite over-the-counter anti-inflammatory creams, seeking medical advice is crucial, as it may signal an underlying issue requiring professional evaluation. Unexplained or significant swelling, especially when accompanied by redness or tenderness, warrants consultation with a healthcare professional to address potential complexities. Allergic reactions to anti-inflammatory creams demand immediate medical attention due to their severity. Additionally, individuals on other medications or with pre-existing health conditions should consult their doctor to ensure safe usage, as some creams may interact adversely. Those with chronic health issues should consult their healthcare provider to verify compatibility with their overall treatment plan before incorporating anti-inflammatory creams.

FAQs about anti-inflammatory creams

What medication is used for chronic inflammation?

For chronic inflammation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen may be prescribed. In more severe cases, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate or biologics may be used. 

Which is better, Celebrex or Voltaren?

Celebrex (celecoxib) is a selective COX-2 inhibitor, often preferred for its lower risk of gastrointestinal side effects. Voltaren (diclofenac) is a nonselective NSAID available in various forms, suitable for different types of pain but linked to a higher chance of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular adverse effects.

What is the best anti-inflammatory gel for arthritis?

The best anti-inflammatory gel for arthritis is Diclofenac gel, such as Voltaren Gel and is commonly recommended for its effectiveness in reducing arthritis pain. 

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Suryadevara, Vidyadhara, et al. “Formulation and evaluation of anti‑inflammatory cream by using Moringa oleifera seed oil.” Pharmacognosy Research 10.2 (2018).
  • Fatima, Sana, et al. “Design and development of Unani anti-inflammatory cream.” Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine 8.3 (2017): 140-144.
  • Sekar, Mahendran, and Nur Syahira Abdul Jalil. “Formulation and evaluation of novel antibacterial and anti-inflammatory cream containing Muntingia calabura leaves extract.” Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research (2017): 376-379.
  • Srirod, Suthasinee, and Supinya Tewtrakul. “Anti-inflammatory and wound healing effects of cream containing Curcuma mangga extract.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 238 (2019): 111828.

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