As someone who has dealt with rheumatoid arthritis my entire adult life, I am no stranger to topical pain relief products - there are many brands out there, and the majority work in some manner with menthol and/or analgesics, both of which do a good job of tackling joint and muscle ache.
The difference in one brand over another for me has to do with how the product is applied, and how the various ingredients go together so that it is neither too strong or too weak to do the job.
Until recently, I'd never actually tried the Salonpas line of products - I'd found 'my' brand some years ago, and stopped thinking to look farther. So let me start with the conclusion - I'm very glad I had the opportunity to check these products out because they are quite a bit more versatile in their application, and had staying power beyond what I have been using, so I spend a lot less time reapplying.
I was amazed at the variety of products I was sent to try out and review - there were several variety of patches, a gel and a spray on pain reliever. At first, I wasn't sure why there would even need to be so many types, but as I worked with them, I discovered some significant differences that really allow the user to select the forms they need best, depending on what their pain issues are.
The Salonpas website has a very helpful section that guides you to select the right product for the right concerns, and I'd like to share my own experiences with you as well:
Also, the same friction that massaging a mentholated cream activates elsewhere also activates on your hands - so unless that is your goal (and sometimes it is!), that can be really intense and uncomfortable.
Salonpas does offer a Deep Relieving Gel and I can say that it is both my least favorite product in their line up and that I am using it when I need to instead of my old brand, in spite of the issues I have with it, because it works very well.
As I mentioned, my issues are that the menthol and camphor really fire up my hands for a long time, and I don't care for that at all. The gel is clear and on the thin side, so where and how I apply it have to be taken into consideration, to avoid goopy spills.
The plus side? A little goes a long, long way and relief is nearly immediate, profound, and long lasting so I don't have to reapply more than twice a day on my worst days. In addition to the menthol and camphor, this contains a topical analgesic as well, so it also allows me to lighten up my use of oral analgesics and that lets me give my gut a break, too.
In practice, I am primarily using the Deep Relieving Gel when I am wanting my hands to get some pain relief, and saving the various patches for other areas of my body. I also found it to be ridiculously useful a few weeks ago when I managed to give myself a very stiff neck in my sleep - instead of living in pain for a couple days as I might otherwise, this had it gone and feeling great before noon.
The other non-patch product is the Salonpas Jet Spray. This uses a combination of menthol and an analgesic to quickly 'freeze' pain and then work to keep it at bay - I haven't used this often, because it seems like it would be more for acute "ow I just ran into a wall" pain than for chronic pain, even though it does allow for access to awkward hard to reach places without getting my hands covered in gel.
It is important to note that this is not like 'first aid sprays' in that it should not be used on open wounds, nor is it for any sort of disinfecting - but if you've got a muscle ache or bruise, I think this could provide rapid relief.
It should go without saying, but I will - be cautious with any spray around your eyes, nose or other tender areas.
Now for my favorites - the patches!
In my experience, patches just generally keep the medication working a lot longer than other forms of topical application, so you can get on with your day without having to constantly reapply medication.
My absolute favorite is the Salonpas Pain Relieving Gel Patch HOT, which uses a combination of cooling menthol with warming capsaicin (yep, the stuff that gives chilies their heat!) - that cold-hot mix is just right for handling a flaring joint, and this particular patch is a generous and stretchable 3"x5.5", making it useable on elbows, knees, lower back, wrapped around the wrist, or whatever body part happens to be screaming at you.
This will be the one that becomes my medicine shelf staple - it may be very intense if you're not used to it, but when I'm in the grip of a strong flare, I need something powerful, and this is it. It's actually allowed me a couple nights of good restful sleep during flares that would normally have kept me from being able to sleep at all.
The medium sized Salonpas Pain Relief Patch is another versatile choice, and its active ingredients are the same as with the Jet Spray, making it a good product for sore muscles and mild to moderate bruises.
The individually wrapped packaging make this an good choice for keeping at ready in a gym back or backpack, and the ability to apply the pain relief via a patch means that you can keep the sore area covered after application without worrying about staining clothing or waiting for it to dry.
The other packaging alternative, used by many in the Salonpas line up, but is one I have come to appreciate - the silver packages come with several packages in the one pouch, without extra wrapping. I was concerned at first that this would lead to them drying out before they could be used, but I've had one pouch open for more than a month now and what's left is still moist and ready to be used. (Note: Salonpas recommends using the contents of an open pouch within 14 days for maximum effectiveness) You fold over the top of the pouch to create a seal - the result is much less packaging waste without undue reduction in the lifespan of the product or its effectiveness. Win win!
NEW Salonpas Pain Relieving Pouch. This combines a number of minty pain relievers - camphor, menthol, methyl salicylate (an NSAID), which makes for a fast blast of cooling relief that gets in deep into sore muscles and joints.
These are the same ingredients as the Deep Relieving Gel, although in somewhat lower dosages.
This patch is smaller than the others, but I still found it to be useful for all but large-joint flaring, and it seems to last and last and last once it's in place. I've had very good luck with it with achy wrists.
This one also comes in a space-saving multi-pack pouch - I now keep one in my purse for unexpected achiness while away from home.
Whether you have chronic or occasional aches, I recommend picking a Salonpas product or two to keep on hand - it works as advertised, and seems to last longer than most other brands I've tried (and I've tried them all).
Yes, there is a strong scent - honestly, I've yet to meet a topical analgesic that does a thing for RA flares that is also scent free. For those dealing with more minor aches, I can understand this not being a selling point, but for me it's a welcome trade off. After giving them a try, Salonpas will be what I mean when I say 'my topical pain relief.'
If, like me, you deal with needing to regularly use NSAIDs, it is well worthwhile to find a topical delivery method to offset the use of oral NSAIDs, which can do a huge number on gut health. These products haven't been able to replace their use altogether for me, but it is keeping my intake to a much safer level than I'd need to use otherwise.
Salonpas products can be purchased at numerous local and online stores as well as on Amazon. Right now, you can fill out this questionnaire to get a 2 patch sample - give them a try!