A sigh of relief: How pain reliever medications that can be applied (rubefacients) help you manage your pain

A sigh of relief: How pain reliever medications that can be applied (rubefacients) help you manage your pain

All of us have a box at home where we keep some handy remedies for cuts, bruises, colds, headaches etc. Maybe some paracetamol, aspirin, bandages, a few throat lozenges. But it’s also handy to keep a few pain relieving options that you can use when you have a sudden ache or pain. So let’s go over some of these – remember,we’re not talking about pills here but “topical” options that can be applied on the affected area.

“Menthol” containing creams: or even creams that contain other ingredients like methylsalicylate, eucalyptus, or oil of wintergreenfor that matter. These creams are the ones that produce a refreshing cooling sensation when applied to the skin and provide immediate relief, by also helping to distract you from the pain.

Not aspirin:  A lot of people have aspirin when they experience pain. Well, there are certain creams applied to the skin that have an ingredient called “salicylates” which is similar to what gives aspirin it’s pain relieving qualities. These creams are very useful when the pain is very close to the skin such as at the elbows, fingers and knees. Your doctor may also prescribe creams that have anti inflammatory agents (but not steroids) or narcotics.

Hot chilli peppers: No, we’re not suggesting you put hot chilli peppers directly on your ache! But there are creams available at the local pharmacist that contain the main ingredient of hot chilli peppers viz. capsaicin. These creams produce a hot sensation burning or tingling sensation when applied to the skin and help to provide topical pain relief.

Localanaesthetics: As you probably guess, anaesthetics numb pain and creams that contain anaesthetic agents will help ease the pain. Your doctor will prescribe this kind of a cream for you, if you need it.

Some of these creams can be directly bought at your local pharmacy, but for others, you will need a doctor’s prescription

Do’s and Don’ts

Keep a few things a few pointers before you use any of these topical creams:

  • Most creams come with a “product insert” in the box. Read the instructions carefully and save the insert, just in case you need it later
  • Don’t apply these creams to a cut or wound or an area where the skin is damaged
  • Don’t use these creams under a tightly bound bandage
  • After applying the cream, wash your hands thoroughly. If you accidentally touch your eyes, it could cause a lot of irritation
  • If you know you are allergic to aspirin or are on blood thinners, talk to your doctor before you use creams with the ‘salicylate’ ingredient

And just in case you have none of the above...

What if it’s one of those days when you have an unexpected backache or shoulder pain and there’s nothing in your first-aid box

Don’t worry. Just open your freezer – do you have a bag of frozen peas? Or some ice? Just wrap the ice in a towel or a seal-lock bag or take a cloth and dip it in some ice cold water, and place it on the affected area.  Don’t keep it on for more than 15-20 min at a time and test the temperature before you put the pack on your skin.

Note: if you have poor circulation or an open wound, don’t use a cold pack but talk to your doctor first.