Skip to main content

Over-The-Counter Creams For Treating Arthritis

6 min read

By Katherine George

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Gerald Morris

Living with any type of arthritis can be really uncomfortable. There a great deal of pain, inflammation, irritation, and swelling, with the additional possibility of limitation in your ability to move. This is why arthritis sufferers are always looking for new options when it comes to pain relief, and thankfully, there are many to choose from.

In addition to exercise, natural remedies, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers in the form of oral medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen), there are also OTC topical creams that can help relieve arthritis pain. These topical treatments come in the form of creams, lotions, and gels. Most products can be purchased at your local drug store and online. What’s even better is that you don’t need a prescription to purchase them!

To help learn more about what’s available and which creams work best, we’ve compiled a list of the most effective OTC creams for treating arthritis….

How Do Arthritis Creams Work?

When applied to the skin, the active ingredients in arthritis creams provide relief by absorbing into the skin, right down to the joint. While most of these creams only provide short-term relief, they are known for being quick and effective. For the best results, use these creams on joints that are close to the surface of the skin, such as the hands and knees. If used regularly, any of these creams could be the key to living a pain-free life with arthritis.

The active ingredients in arthritis creams responsible for providing relief are salicylates, counterirritants, and capsaicin. In particular, salicylates are able to reduce any inflammation and irritation, as well as decrease pressure and pain in the joints, says Healthline. Some brands may also include menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil, or cinnamon oil. Other ingredients such as capsaicin, an element found in chili peppers, work to reduce pain by blocking the skin’s pain receptors.

Bengay Ultra Strength Pain Relieving Cream

Bengay Ultra Strength Pain Relieving Cream works hard to alleviate the pain associated with arthritis thanks to three different pain relieving ingredients proven to alleviate aches and pains. The first is salicylates, which help reduce inflammation and irritation. The next is camphor, a counter-irritant that warms and cools the skin. Lastly, it has menthol, which also works to warm and cool the skin.

While this cream is effective, it works best for minor aches. When used on minor aches and pains, it offers strong and fast relief. You can purchase this product for only $6.78 at Walmart.

Icy Hot Vanishing Gel

Icy Hot Vanishing Gel likely gets its name from the fact that it contains menthol, an ingredient that works to cool the affected area and dull the pain, then warm it up and provide relaxation. It also contains salicylates to reduce any inflammation and irritation.

This arthritis cream works to provide temporary relief for any muscle aches and pains. Unlike some other creams, this one can be applied numerous times throughout the day. Plus, it’s very discreet in appearance and scent. You can purchase this product for $6.99 at Walgreens.

Aspercreme Odor-Free Topical Analgesic Cream

Aspercreme Odor-Free Topical Analgesic Cream prides itself on being scent-free. Unlike other creams, this cream is very discreet. This is one of many reasons that it’s one of the most popular OTC pain relieving creams for arthritis.

Another top selling point for Aspercreme is that it’s made without lidocaine, so it’s up to the consumer whether or not they want it to come with numbing medication. It’s also one of the most cost-friendly arthritis creams on this list — available for only $4.98 at Walmart.

Myoflex Odorless Pain Relieving Cream

If you are looking for fast-acting relief, Myoflex Odorless Pain Relieving Cream is a great choice. This arthritis cream provides short-term relief that actually lasts for several hours. Most people are able to get at least 8-hours of relief, which is almost a whole day!

This cream was created with salicylates to help reduce inflammation and irritation, as well as aloe vera, which is a great alternative to the menthol smell that is so common with other products. You can purchase Myoflex Odorless Pain Relieving Cream for $8.46 at Walmart.

Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy

According to the Penetrex website, this arthritis cream has been trusted by over 2 million arthritis sufferers since 2009. They are so confident in their product that they offer a “pain-free” refund if you don’t have pain-free results.

This arthritis cream is made with active ingredients like arnica, vitamin B6, and MSM (DSMO2), all of which work to relieve the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy has acquired a 5-star review on Amazon and is one of their top sellers in pain relief. You can purchase it in various sizes on Amazon for $18.95 or at Walmart.

Blue Emu Maximum Arthritis Pain Relief Cream

This arthritis cream is one of the top-rated products on Amazon with a 4 out of 5 star rating and over 800 reviews. It’s rated as an “Amazon Choice.” Blue Emu Maximum Arthritis Pain Relief Cream was created with a unique formula which includes trolamine, salicylate, and emu oil. It works to provide relief for minor aches and pains, including those that affect the joints. It can be used to relieve the pain associated with arthritis, strains, bruises, and backaches.

It is praised for its ability to penetrate deep beneath the skin and into the joint, as well as its long lasting relief. Other benefits of this cream are that it’s odor-free, non-greasy, and good for dry, cracked skin. You can purchase this product on Amazon for $12.98.

Capzasin-HP Arthritis Cream

Because it is so effective, Capzasin-HP Arthritis Cream advertises itself as being the No. 1 pharmacist recommended arthritis cream. It also touts that it is doctor recommended.

This product is made from capsaicin, the same ingredient found in chili peppers. This spicy ingredient works to relieve arthritis pain by warming the skin and blocking the body’s pain receptors. It can also penetrate the skin for quick relief. It’s available for just under $10 at Target.

Sportscreme Deep Penetrating Pain Relieving Rub

This cream is different from the others on this list. It’s a thick cream that is meant to be massaged into the skin. It was also designed with athletes in mind, so it works wonders for stiff and sore muscles that are also experienced by arthritis sufferers.

Sportscreme Deep Penetrating Pain Relieving Rub contains salicylates to reduce inflammation and irritation. It’s also free of counterirritants, which is key for people who aren’t interested in a cream that cools and warms the skin (which is common in other products).

Interested in purchasing this product? It’s available for only $7.49 at Walgreens.

Quick and Effective Relief with Arthritis Creams

If you’re someone who struggles with aches and pains related to arthritis, then you’ll be happy to learn that it’s possible to find relief, even without a prescription! There are many OTC arthritis creams available that provide fast and effective relief. We mentioned several products above that can be found either online or in your local drugstore.

Before purchasing a product, be sure to check that the OTC arthritis cream contains ingredients that will alleviate pain. You should also check with your doctor before using any products regularly. By using any of the products we’ve listed, you should be able to find relief and enjoy a comfortable, pain-free life.

MD, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine

Gerald Morris, MD is a family medicine/internal medicine physician with over 20 years expertise in the medical arena. Dr. Morris has spent time as a clinician, clinical research coordinator/manager, medical writer, and instructor. He is a proponent of patient education as a tool in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical conditions.

General Health


How Employee Health Software Fosters a Healthy Working Environment
By Katherine George General Health

How Employee Health Software Fosters a Healthy Working Environment

Companies are realizing that the health and happiness of their workforce directly impact productivity and overall success. Enter employee health software, a powerful tool that can transform workplaces into healthier and more vibrant environments.

Read More about How Employee Health Software Fosters a Healthy Working Environment

4 min read