Best Pain Relief Gels

Updated July 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

28 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
342 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best pain relief gels

Last Updated July 2020

Need a solution for your everyday aches and pains? Try a topical pain relief gel to soothe chronic or acute pain and inflammation. Specially formulated gels help reduce the sensation of pain and deliver targeted, soothing relief to painful areas. 

Pain relief gels contain active ingredients, such as menthol, that once absorbed by the skin help to treat aches and pains so you can get back to feeling comfortable. Gels are not formulated to prevent or stop chronic pain conditions, though they may help control and manage flare-ups. Pain relief gels are suitable for those seeking effective options as an alternative to oral pain treatments. If you’re searching for a holistic solution, pain relief gels with naturally derived ingredients are also available. 

Use gels as part of your pain management routine and find relief so that you can work, play, and relax without struggling through your day. Our buying guide includes information on the benefits of gel treatments along with recommendations to help you choose the best product for your needs.

Pain relief gels provide temporary relief. If you have chronic, long-lasting pain that doesn’t seem to be going away, a doctor’s visit is in order. A medical practitioner can provide you with a diagnosis and assist you with a treatment plan if required.

Key considerations

There are pain relief creams as well as gels. The difference between creams and gels is the consistency of the formula. Creams tend to be slightly greasier, while gels are more watery.

Who needs pain relief gel?

Pain relief gel is a versatile treatment suitable for a host of individuals, including the following:

  • People with chronic pain, such as back pain or joint discomfort

  • Athletes who experience normal aches and pains

  • Athletes who have sustained an injury

  • People who prefer to avoid oral pain relief medications 

  • Anyone experiencing pain as a result of an inflammatory condition such as arthritis 

Gels are also a favorite treatment option of physical therapists, pain management specialists, and chiropractors who prefer to use less invasive treatments. Individuals who strength train also use pain relief gels to treat delayed onset muscle soreness. People who have fibromyalgia may find gels to be an effective and accessible treatment option as well. 

How do you use pain relief gel?

To use a pain relief gel, simply apply and rub the product onto the skin in the area where you’re feeling pain. You’ll notice relief once the skin absorbs the topical treatment. Depending on the gel, you may feel relief a few minutes to several hours after application. Certain formulas require multiple applications for effective relief, while others need to be applied once per day or less. In some instances, a bandage is used to prevent the product from rubbing off or transferring to other areas or surfaces. 

Characteristics

Residue: Pain relief gel may leave a noticeable residue on the skin that can stain clothes or surfaces. Even nongreasy formulas have the potential to leave a residue. To avoid staining, cover the treatment area after application. 

Scent: A strong smell is a common feature of many pain relief gels. Because of active ingredients like menthol, many products have a noticeable medicinal odor. Some formulas are odorless (these are typically pricier), while others contain scented ingredients intended to mask the smell.

Prolonged use

Opinions differ regarding prolonged use of topical pain relief treatments. Many individuals believe that those experiencing recurring pain should seek the advice of a medical professional instead of masking the issue with a pain relief gel. Others are of the belief that all-natural gels are a useful alternative compared to more invasive pain management treatments and potentially addictive oral pain medications. 

Select an odor-free pain relief gel if you plan on using it outside of your home, such as at school or work.

Features

Ingredients

Active: Most topical pain relief products contain menthol as the main active ingredient. Menthol actively soothes painful areas by delivering a cooling sensation that dulls and masks pain. In addition to menthol, pain relief gels may also contain hemp, aloe, emu oil, methyl salicylate, and camphor. Products with multiple ingredients may provide added relief compared to those with a single active ingredient. 

Hydrating: In addition to active medicinal ingredients, pain relief gels sometimes also contain moisturizing substances like shea butter to keep skin hydrated even when applying gel daily. 

Natural: If you’re interested in a natural formula, opt for pain relief gels labeled as non-GMO and free of parabens. Odor-free formulas are gentler on the skin and contain fewer chemicals as well. All-natural pain relief gels are ideal for individuals with sensitive skin since they contain fewer ingredients known to cause irritation. 

Container

Pain relief gels are available in a variety of container types. Some offer easier application than others.

Tubes: Pain relief gels in tubes are great for travel and easy to dispense; however, tubes usually contain a limited amount of product. It’s also possible to squeeze the tube too hard and waste product if you’re not careful. 

Tubs and jars: Pain relief gels available in this format are easy to open and apply. Because you’re using your fingers to access and apply the gel, there is a risk of bacterial contamination with these vessels. Avoid using pain relief gel in tubs or jars if you’re sharing the product with someone else.

Pump bottles: This option is sanitary and easy to use. It’s a mess-free option that delivers a measured dollop of product.

EXPERT TIP

Use soap and water to remove traces of pain relief gel on your hands to avoid transferring the gel to your eyes and face.


Staff  | BestReviews

Pain relief gel prices

Pain relief gels cost between $6 and $50. The cost greatly depends on the included ingredients and the effectiveness of the product. 

Inexpensive: Budget-conscious buyers will find plenty of choices between $6 and $15 per bottle. Options at this price point usually offer smaller quantities than pricier products and don’t always provide fast-acting relief. 

Mid-range: Gels in this price range cost between $15 and $30. At this price point, you’ll receive a moderately sized container that provides fast, effective relief.

Expensive: Those willing to pay a higher price, from $30 to $50,  receive products that provide close to medical-grade relief. You’ll experience faster results and longer-lasting relief with a premium product. These gels also tend to have a subtler scent. 

EXPERT TIP

Pop a tube of pain relief gel in your gym bag and apply the gel after intense workouts to reduce post-exercise aches and pains.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Wash off the gel if it feels like it’s burning your skin. Pain relief gel shouldn’t burn the skin. If the cooling ingredients feel like they’re burning, wash off the product with soap and water right away.

  • Store the product correctly. Gels should be stored in a cool, dry location, such as a cupboard, to prevent degradation and spoilage.

  • Don’t put gel around your hairline. Tie your hair back to prevent the cream from getting stuck in your hair when applying gel on the neck.

  • Stock up on pain relief gel just in case. If you’re a frequent typist or gamer, keep pain relief gel on hand to soothe aching fingers, hands, and wrists

Other products we considered

If the products in the matrix don’t meet your needs, here are a few more. The Mineral Ice Therapeutic Pain Relieving Gel is available in a handy tub and features a grease-free formula. The cooling gel penetrates skin quickly and delivers pain relief for hours.

The Boiron Arnicare Gel is an all-natural solution that provides temporary pain relief in a nongreasy, odorless formula. The gel doesn’t contain any parabens and is designed for treating acute pain. We love that this reliable product has been around since 1932.

The Coldee Hemp Freeze Pain Relief Gel is an innovative formula made with natural hemp extract. The gel contains multiple active ingredients in addition to hemp, including menthol and camphor. Aloe vera and omega fatty acids moisturize and nourish the skin.

Finally, the Roscoe Medical Sub Zero Cooling Pain Relief Gel is available in multiple formats, but we’re a fan of this pump bottle. The cooling, fast-acting gel contains a blend of ingredients, including herbs, to provide impressive pain relief.

Carefully read product labels, especially if you have an allergy to certain ingredients.

FAQ

Q. Do pain relief gels dry the skin?
A. Yes. Whether you have dry skin or not, choose a pain relief gel with moisturizing ingredients to prevent the skin from drying out during use. Avoid using pain relief gels on broken, sunburned, or acne-ridden skin to prevent irritation and pain. 
 

Q. Will a pain relief gel reduce headache or migraine discomfort?
A. Pain relief gels are not designed to treat headache and migraine pain. Migraines, in particular, are a neurological condition, and gels won’t reduce their pain. In addition, we don’t recommend applying pain relief gels to your face. 
 

Q. How do I wash clothing that’s been stained by a pain relief gel? 
A. Greasy stains left behind by pain relief gels are best treated with a heavy-duty detergent and stain remover. Remove any excess gel from the stained area and soak using a stain remover. Wash your stained garment in hot water and line dry. Don’t put stained clothing in the dryer because the heat could set the stain. Repeat the process if the stain remains.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Writer

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