BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Packaged in an easy-to-use pump bottle, this product has a cool menthol formula that feels great on painful spots and is great for arthritis, joint discomfort, or general aches.
Pump container may not allow for all of the contents to be dispensed.
Ideal for sprains, strains, and general use, this product works fast on sore spots. Provides a cool sensation on achy muscles that lasts several hours.
Some found the menthol smell to be a little too strong.
Available in 5ml packages, these mini packets are great to take on trips or keep with you wherever you go. Formula features ingredients designed to soothe sore muscles and joints and is paraben-free.
May not be ideal for soothing large area aches.
Featuring a blend of camphor and menthol, this product creates a warming sensation and dries quickly so it won’t leave a residue on clothing.
Some may find it feels more like a cooling sensation rather than a warming one.
Contains natural ingredients and is toxin-, oil-, and aspirin-free. Convenient squeeze tube works well on the go. Dries fast and the smell fades pretty quickly after application.
May not be strong enough for some users dealing with higher levels of discomfort.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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 and capsaicin, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 oil extract, aloe, emu oil, methyl salicylate, and camphor. Products with multiple ingredients may provide added relief compared to those with a single active ingredient. Dr. Michael Huynh, BestReviews Medical Expert, notes that capsaicin is also an excellent alternative to menthol.
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.
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.
Pain relief gels cost between $6 and $50. The cost greatly depends on the included ingredients and the effectiveness of the product.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.