Our past few posts have focused on patches and lumbar supports for dealing with lower back pain.
Today, we want to discuss another product type…the topical back pain reliever.
What does “topical” mean?
The term topical simply means that it is applied directly to the skin, and not taken by mouth.
So topical pain relievers can come in the form of gels, creams, lotions, and oils.
These types of products are an excellent way to achieve quick relief from sudden lower back pain. They are also a great compliment to both over-the-counter and prescription oral pain medications.
Also, many of these products come in a convenient roll-on form, which is perfect for applying to the lower back and other hard to reach areas of the body.
Topical pain relievers are also good when used in combination with massage for muscle strains, fibromyalgia massage, and other massage-related treatments.
Do topical pain relievers really work?
This is probably the most complicated question of all, since we are all different. A product that works great for your back pain may do nothing for someone else. Worse…there is no way to predict which product will work for which person!
But that’s the bad news. The good news is that these products are relatively inexpensive. So a little trial and error is the best approach to find that one topical pain reliever that works for YOU.
These types of products are also good to apply before activities, such as work outs, gardening, or other activities that are known to cause you lower back pain (or any other pain, for that matter).
They are also great because they can be applied right where there are needed. The medicine in these products does not distribute throughout your body, like oral pain killers do. So the side effects are much lower.
While there are many brands of topical pain relievers, many of them have some common ingredients. Many of these are already familiar to readers of this blog, such as methyl salicylate, menthol, and camphor. These ingredients are very safe, and can come in gels, creams, lotions, sprays, etc.
Typically, these products start to work relatively quickly, but the pain relief does not always last very long. Fortunately, these products are so safe that they can be applied 3 or more times a day without any issues.
Some of these products contain a small amount of capsaicin, which is derived from hot peppers. Capsaicin provides a warm to hot sensation to the skin when applied. Some people may find the warm sensation from capsaicin a bit unsettling, as if the skin is burning.
Rest assured that your skin is fine and not burning.
BioFreeze– This classic pain reliever, especially the roll on, is a perfect supplement to oral pain killers. In other words, if you need a little extra relief, BioFreeze is a good option. It works especially well for neck pain, shoulder pain…just about anywhere
that you can reach with the roll on!
Sombra Warm and Cool – Sombra Warm and Cool are similar. Like BioFreeze, they are available as a convenient roll on. In fact, we have a short video highlighting the differences. Note that Sombra warm has a small amount of capsaicin, which is a really good way to provide some warmth to a lower back, knee, or other painful area.
Both BioFreeze and Sombra are available as roll ons, making them very convenient to apply directly for the treatment of lower back pain.
Elmore Oil – We’re very excited about our most recent topical pain reliever, Elmore Oil. Why? Because Elmore Oil is the only topical pain reliever that we’ve seen which actually helps both pain AND inflammation.
This is a huge advantage for Elmore Oil over other topical pain relievers. Importantly, there is a lot of scientific and clinical evidence showing that the extract from eucalyptus (the key ingredient) has compounds which have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
This makes Elmore Oil perfect for not only muscle pain (where inflammation is less of a problem), but also for osteoarthritis, plantar fasciitis, and other painful conditions caused by inflammation.
Originally from Australia, Elmore Oil is used by Australian Olympians and professional athletes for post-workout massage and pain relief.
Because it is an oil, only a small amount is needed, since it penetrates the skin very quickly. The scent is mild, and dissipates quickly.
We have a short video on our main site describing Elmore Oil in more detail.
Old Goat – Old Goat is another oil product which contains extracts of various herbs. In our research of this product, it’s clear to us that the pain relief comes from extracts of pepper (containing capsicum) and peppermint (containing menthol). Old Goat does have a very strong, but pleasant scent. So if you enjoy aromatherapy, Old Goat is an excellent pain reliever.
Plus it works great on insect bites and poison ivy itch!
Traumeel – A very different product from the ones mentioned above is Traumeel. Available as a gel and cream, Traumeel is a blend of extract from various plants and herbs. Traumeel has been used in Europe for decades for pain and inflammation in arthritis, osteoarthritis, and other pain and inflammation conditions.
Traumeel is also commonly used as a pain reliever by Olympic Athletes across Europe.
It is also a popular product for those who have repetitive motion at work. Many chefs, for example, apply Traumeel Gel after work to relieve the pain from hours of cutting and cooking.
The gel form is a good choice for lower back pain, as it goes into the skin quickly, and the scent is very mild.
Epsom-It – We were pleased to find out that Epsom Salts are available in a lotion form! Epsom-It is a nice lotion for arthritis, lower back pain, osteoarthritis, and many other types of pain. Plus it’s a true lotion, making it perfect for use on arthritic hands during the dry winters. Epsom-It is very mild, so it can be used as needed, just like a regular lotion.
So what should I buy?
As mentioned earlier, this is a tough question to answer. We’re all different!
Generally speaking, if you have lower back pain and are looking for a pain reliever, any one of these will help. All of these are great compliments to other treatments, such as oral pain relievers and back supports. We again do not recommend using these together with a heating pad. We would wait an hour or so before using a heating pad.
Also, if you are allergic to aspirin, stick with products such as BioFreeze, Sombra, Elmore Oil, and Traumeel.
We hope this is helpful! Look for our next article in this series, where we will explore how electricity can be a pain reliever for your lower back pain!