- Muscle rubs can provide pain relief and lower inflammation to help with acute and chronic pain.
- Our top pick, Penetrex, offers fast-acting relief in a non-greasy formula.
- This article was medically reviewed by Vincent Noori, MD, a vascular surgeon at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
As a runner, musician, and equestrian with fibromyalgia, I’m no stranger to muscle pain and soreness. My hands and wrists especially ached during college when I played the flute for countless hours a day, and back pain has plagued me for most of my adult life. To cope, I tried various muscle rubs and quickly amassed a collection of products — many didn’t work well, but I ended up loving some.
Choosing a quality muscle rub can be tricky. You want a product that works immediately, but that also lasts for hours. Many formulas are greasy, while others are powerfully scented. The muscle rubs in this list are effective, non-greasy, and have minimal fragrance.
When trying a new product, it’s important to make sure that you aren’t allergic to any of its ingredients. Always follow the product’s usage directions and test it on a small area of your skin first. Muscle rubs can be used in conjunction with other pain-relieving methods, but don’t apply muscle rub before using a heating pad or wrapping or bandaging the affected area.
While muscle rubs can ease away short-term muscle soreness, always consult your doctor for long-term pain management or in the event of acute injury.
Here are the best muscle rubs of 2021
- Best muscle rub overall: Penetrex Pain Relief Cream
- Best muscle rub for cooling relief: Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel Roll-On
- Best muscle rub for warming relief: Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel
- Best natural muscle rub: Noxicare Natural Pain Relief Cream
- Best hemp muscle rub: Dr. Sayman’s Wonder Rub
Updated on 03/03/2021 by Victoria Giardina: We included a product showcase so you can easily shop our top picks, more buying options, and a new section on related pain relief guides. We also had Dr. Vincent Noori medically review the information here.
The best muscle rub overall
Penetrex Pain Relief Cream helps to alleviate pain across a variety of conditions, contains soothing ingredients, and isn’t greasy or overpowering in scent.
Pros: Non-greasy, paraben-free, fast-acting
Penetrex offers fast-acting and effective topical pain relief that’s useful for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, and general muscle aches. Its active ingredient, arnica, has been used to reduce inflammation from certain conditions like osteoarthritis and surgery for decades, as well as help with trauma, bruises, or tissue injuries. While there haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies looking at the topical benefits of the plant in the last decade, a 2017 study analysis in Nutrients reports that arnica may have some anti-arthritic properties and could be a comparable pain reliever to ibuprofen.
When testing Penetrex, I found it provided pain relief within minutes and lasted for hours. Plus, it wasn’t greasy and easily massages into your skin in about 20 seconds.
Other ingredients in Penetrex include sunflower seed oil, glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, glycerin, and shea butter. Its scent is a mix of Frankincense oil, peppermint oil, camphor, and JeaTree leaf oil, but it’s not overpowering and quickly fades.
Penetrex is paraben-free, which makes it less likely to cause skin irritation. It’s non-staining and is formulated and filled in an FDA-certified laboratory. If you’re looking for a go-to product for relatively fast relief, this one’s for you.
The best muscle rub for cooling relief
Biofreeze’s Pain Relief Gel Roll-On offers fast-acting cooling relief with a simple, mess-free application, thanks to its roll-on design.
Pros: Easy application, fast-acting, free of NSAIDs, parabens, and propylene glycol
Cons: Has a slight menthol scent
My chiropractor first introduced me to Biofreeze, and it’s quickly become my go-to muscle rub for daily use (and it’s no surprise it’s one of our favorite products for lower back pain relief). Biofreeze’s Pain Relief Gel Roll-On offers soothing, cooling relief that helps reduce muscle pain safely, as the formula contains no anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or parabens. In addition, it slows blood flow and cools your skin, potentially relieving pain at the same time.
Because menthol is the active ingredient in Biofreeze, it has a light scent but isn’t overpowering and fades quickly. I can feel it working within about two minutes and notice the effects last for hours. It isn’t greasy, doesn’t stain clothing, and a little bit goes a long way. I particularly like the roll-on, mess-free design; the applicator itself, which utilizes a rollie ball, gives a massaging effect, too.
The best muscle rub for warming relief
The Sombra Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel offers controlled warming that’s soothing, comfortable, and quickly absorbable on pain areas.
Pros: Soothing warmth helps to relax muscles and relieve pain, non-greasy, absorbs easily
Cons: Mild orange scent may be strong for some
For deep aches and chronic pain, Sombra’s Warm Therapy Pain Relieving Gel offers a gentle warmth that can help to relieve pain. It massages into your skin quickly and within a few minutes, you can feel its warming effects. For conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and bursitis, the warmth can help relax sore or tense muscles.
I discovered this muscle rub when I was looking for a product to relieve tension in my wrists from past injuries. It offers comfortable warmth, rather than a burning heat. Ingredients including menthol, camphor, and witch hazel do give this gel a mild scent, but it may be too strong for some.
The best natural muscle rub
Made with natural ingredients like ginger and rosemary extracts, Noxicare Natural Pain Relief Cream offers gentle, soothing relief without parabens or glycol.
Pros: 100% odorless, all-natural ingredients, non-greasy
Cons: May stain fabrics
Noxicare’s Natural Pain Relief Cream contains natural ingredients for deeply penetrating pain relief, including turmeric extract, a known anti-inflammatory. In addition, the product contains willow bark extract, ginger extract, holy basil extract, rosemary extract, alpha-lipoic acids, and Boswellia extract. These natural ingredients work together to give this muscle rub both pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
This cream contains no parabens or glycol and its ingredient list is refreshingly simple. What’s more, the formula was developed by a Harvard-trained doctor and board-certified interventional pain management specialist, so it was crafted with a keen eye toward alleviating discomfort.
I’ve been using this cream for about two years and appreciate its gentle yet effective pain relief. I don’t feel it working immediately, but I do start to feel my hands and wrists relax about 15 minutes after application. It doesn’t have the intense cooling or warming effects of other creams but is refreshing and works gradually. Best of all, this cream has no odor, so it’s ideal for when you’re in a public place.
Note that because of the turmeric, this cream can stain white or light-color fabrics. If you massage it into your skin well, it’s less likely to stain, though I still wouldn’t advise applying it while wearing white.
The best hemp muscle rub
Dr. Sayman’s Wonder Rub has three powerful ingredients that work to offer effective pain relief: lidocaine, hemp oil, and arnica.
Pros: Odorless, non-greasy, numbing, cooling, anti-inflammatory
Cons: Topical lidocaine may cause allergic reactions
Dr. Sayman’s Wonder Rub contains a trio of potent ingredients offering numbing, cooling, and anti-inflammatory properties for comprehensive pain relief. Lidocaine 4%, the maximum strength available without a prescription, helps to numb the pain associated with minor strains, arthritis, and muscle aches. Hemp oil helps to reduce inflammation, targeting the source of the pain. Lastly, arnica offers cooling and fast-acting relief. This unique combination makes for a powerful pain-relieving rub.
It’s also not greasy and has no odor. The 4-ounce tube goes a long way since you only need a bit for each application. The rub is easy to massage into your skin, and because it’s unscented, you can apply it anytime.
Check out our other pain relief guides
- The 5 best massage guns
- The 4 best foot massagers
- The best foam rollers to relieve your muscles
- The best products for lower back pain relief
Sign up for Insider Reviews’ weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.
You can purchase syndication rights to this story here.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]
Source: Read Full Article