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How Effective is Arthritis Cream?

By KD Morgan
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There is a wide variety of arthritis cream products on the market that range from pharmaceuticals to nutraceuticals, homeopathic, and holistic remedies. As with most medications, the success varies from person to person. Most people can find relief in some topical preparations if they look carefully and investigate the available options.

In many cases, the simplest, purest form of arthritis cream is the most effective. Arnica has been used since the 16th century as a homeopathic remedy for arthritis pain, joint and muscle pain, bruising, and breaks. People noticed that the mountain goats would eat this plant just before making their annual migratory trek over the mountains or if one of them had been injured by a fall. The results in humans were equally successful. In fact, broken bones have been misdiagnosed due to the arnica eliminating the bruising and other symptoms.

Using castor oil as an arthritis treatment has also been very successful. It is rubbed onto the painful area and then covered with wool. It is said that doing this before going to bed at night will relieve the arthritis pain in nearly all cases. Another very successful topical product is Tiger Balm®. This ancient Chinese formula was reintroduced to China in the early 1900s, and it contains camphor, cajuput oil, clove and cassia oils, menthol and mint.

Devil's claw and yucca, combined with B12, may be as effective as some prescription formulas. There are several potent arthritis products containing devils claw and yucca. It is considered an excellent way to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness for both acute and chronic arthritis pain. Other plant formulas containing salicylates (from the aspirin family) include meadowsweet and white willow. In addition, boswellia, cat’s claw, curcumin, and turmeric exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and contain antioxidants that may aid in arthritis treatment.

Capsaicin is also found in some arthritis cream formulas. It is the active ingredient in chili peppers and, when applied topically, relieves pain by heating the area. This activates the nerve cells, which reduces the pain messengers to the brain. Whether eating chili peppers or applying them topically, the heat sends a message to the brain that the body is on fire, which in turn activates the endorphins to reduce pain. As with any product that uses heat to soothe the condition, it is important to avoid getting the cream in the mouth, eyes, and open wounds.

Arthritis creams containing chondroitins, glucosamine, MSM (Methylsuflonylmethane), and/or hyaluronic acid have also been very useful for some people, especially if they are combined with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). NSAIDS are products such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Often, topical preparations are used instead of their oral counterparts to avoid damage to the kidneys, liver, and stomach. These remedies may help protect, lubricate, and regenerate the cartilage while relieving inflammation, swelling, and pain.

For more extreme cases of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, prescription pharmaceuticals, in conjunction with oral arthritis medication will need to be considered. Side effects can include stinging and blistering of the skin, inflammation and irritation, and skin ulcers. With the vast variety of options available, it should be easy to find a remedy that relieves an individual's symptoms and is compatible with his or her body.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon346837 — On Sep 01, 2013

I would like to know if this product as anything in it that's aspirin related?

By anon333099 — On May 02, 2013

What kind of hand cream used for pain and stiffness would you recommend?

By anon269464 — On May 18, 2012

Does anyone know of any unfavorable side effects associated with Australian Dream?

By anon140323 — On Jan 07, 2011

We have not had anyone else mention dizziness when using Australian Dream. To be safe, it is advisable to discontinue use. It is possible you are allergic to an ingredient in the cream.

By anon140082 — On Jan 06, 2011

I get a little dizzy when using the Australian Dream cream. Could I be allergic to something in it? Has anyone experienced this when using it?

By Nadin — On Nov 06, 2010

For #4: I do a lot of knitting as well. I know supplement that could help your grandma for sure. It is for internal use but easy to swallow because it's in a gel form. It helped me just in 12 days with my metacarpophalangeal joints(no pain, no inflammation already for 4 months!)I'll be glad to share information with you.

By ausdream — On Oct 18, 2010

Australian Dream is a great cream to use. It provides arthritis pain relief without odor or skin irritation. Hope it helps your Mom!

By naturesgurl3 — On Oct 06, 2010

What kind of arthritis relief cream would be good for an older lady to use on her hands? My grandma loves to knit, and her hands are starting to get all swollen and gnarled, and often hurt her too much to knit.

What would be a good topical arthritis cream for her? She doesn't want one that tingles, she's very adamant on the point. Are there any non-tingly, yet pain relieving creams for an older lady with arthritis in her hands? I'd really appreciate any information.

By CopperPipe — On Oct 06, 2010

@streamfinder -- I've always used Bengay arthritis cream, but then I was an athlete for a long time, so I was a Bengay fan long before I had arthritis. I have also heard good things about Zostrix arthritis pain cream, but I've never used it personally, so I couldn't really recommend it per se. Hope you find a good one for your mom. Best of luck.

By StreamFinder — On Oct 06, 2010

Can anybody recommend a good topical arthritis cream? My mom's arthritis is getting pretty bad, so we want to get her a good cream ass soon as we can. Is there one that's particularly better than the others, or is it like lotion, just kind of a personal preference?

How do I choose a cream for arthritis anyway? It seems like that should be easy, but at the drug store there's at least seven different brands. How do I choose?

By anon42079 — On Aug 19, 2009

Histamine dihydrochloride, the active ingredient in Australian Dream® arthritis pain relief cream, works through "vasodilation." This is the process of expanding blood vessels to increase circulation, providing arthritis pain relief within the affected tissue.

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