Is Topical Therapy for Pain Relief Right for You?
Despite what many people think about taking a pill to reduce chronic pain symptoms, applying topical medication can be just as effective. Topical medications can be applied to the skin via a cream or patch. They are an excellent choice for patients who cannot take pills and can be especially effective if a patient has pain in a very specific area.
There are three main types of topical pain medications:
1. Local Anesthetics
Local anesthetics reduce pain by numbing the area for a short period. They can be used to treat stabbing, chronic or burning sensations that occur due to a shingles infection. They can also be used to help provide relief to injection sites or when treating a sunburn.
2. Pain Medications
Pain medications work by decreasing inflammation in a particular area of the body. Topical aspirin creams block pain-causing substances in the body. These topical pain medications may also contain narcotic pain relievers for additional relief. Examples of over-the-counter pain relievers are BenGay and Aspercreme. Prescription medications are also available.
Topical counter-irritants include menthol, wintergreen oil or eucalyptus that provides a cooling sensation to irritated or inflamed nerves. An example of a counter-irritant is Vicks VapoRub.
Risks of Topical Therapy
Always to follow your doctor's directions before starting new pain medications. Using topical ointments too often may cause allergic reactions. Tell your doctor immediately if the patch you use begins to burn or turns your skin red. Avoid using topical treatments on any sensitive areas of the body, including on broken skin or wounds. Do not cover the area with a bandage. Some people who use topical pain relievers may be at an increased risk of chemical burns.