Consider pain-relieving topical meds such as gels, creams, and patches that you apply to the skin. Some topical meds target pain relief where you need it. Note in your Journal how topical meds affect your pain level.
Try NSAID Rubs
NSAIDs aren't just in pill form. You can also get anti-inflammatory relief in creams and gels. Some over-the-counter (OTC) topical NSAIDs include Aspercreme Cream and Myoflex Cream (trolamine salicylate.) Prescription-only topical NSAIDs include Voltaren Topical and Pennsaid (diclofenac). These topical meds are convenient because you can use them directly on the areas that hurt. Just be sure not to use NSAID creams and oral NSAIDs at the same time.
Capsaicin for Pain
Capsaicin creams contain an extract from hot peppers, which works by blocking a chemical that delivers pain messages to the brain. Capsaicin is available both OTC and by prescription. Many people use it for arthritis pain or nerve pain. One study found that applying capsaicin to the skin over a sore area can help with fibromyalgia tenderness. You may feel a burning sensation when you first use it, and for a couple of days it might make the symptoms worse. Don't use it on broken skin, and avoid getting it in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Lidocaine Eases Pain
Lidocaine is a drug that helps numb pain. It's available in a patch sold OTC as Lidoderm. Lidocaine patches work well for treating one area of pain -- just apply the patch to the area that's most painful. Don't use the patch on skin with any sores or open areas. A common side effect is redness or swelling on the area where you've placed the patch. People taking antiarrhythmic medications and those with liver problems should talk with their doctor before using this medication.
Check Your Skin
Lidocaine patches can sometimes cause redness on the skin. The redness typically goes away in few minutes or hours after you remove the patch. If you notice irritation or burning, remove the patch until it goes away. If the irritation doesn't go away -- or gets worse -- call your doctor.
Are lidocaine pain patches too expensive? Ask your doctor about using a lidocaine gel instead. It can be effective in treating nerve pain and costs less.
Using Pain Rubs
Use care when applying any kind of pain patch or gel. Wash your hands thoroughly after each use, and don't get the medicine in your eyes, nose, or mouth. When applying capsaicin, you may want to apply it using cotton balls or wearing disposable latex gloves, because it will burn anything you touch with it. Also, don't put a heating pad over an area with capsaicin; it could burn your skin.
Topical Rub Options
Some OTC rubs, such as Bengay, Thera-Gesic, and Mentoderm, contain ingredients like menthol and methylsalicylate. Some brands are also available in patches you can place on the skin over a sore area. They work by causing the skin to feel cool, then warm, which soothes and distracts you from pain.