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Female athlete spraying topical analgesic on sports injury

How do Topical Analgesics Work?

Topical analgesics are medications that are applied directly to the skin to provide pain relief. They work by targeting pain receptors in the skin, muscles, or joints, and inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The exact mechanisms of action can vary depending on the specific type of topical analgesic.

Common types of topical analgesics and how they work:

Counterirritants: These types create a cooling or heating sensation on the skin, which helps to distract from the underlying pain. They work by causing a mild irritation or numbing effect on the skin, which can reduce pain perception. Examples include menthol, camphor, and capsaicin. Product examples include Biofreeze, which incorporates menthol.

Salicylates: These are substances similar to aspirin and have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. They work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that contribute to pain and inflammation. Examples include methyl salicylate and trolamine salicylate. Medistik utilises salicylate to ease pain, and menthol to cause a cooling sensation.

Local Anesthetics: These analgesics temporarily numb the area where they are applied. They work by blocking the transmission of pain signals from the nerves to the brain. Examples include lidocaine and benzocaine. These are considered medicaitons, and are not typically used in massage therapy.

They work by targeting pain receptors in the skin, muscles, or joints, and inhibiting the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

Topical analgesics can relieve various types of pain, including:

  • Musculoskeletal pain: They can provide relief for muscle aches, strains, sprains, and joint pain, such as arthritis.

  • Nerve pain: Some topical analgesics can be effective for neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage or dysfunction of the nerves. Examples include lidocaine patches for post-herpetic neuralgia.

  • Minor injuries: They can help with minor burns, cuts, bruises, and insect bites.

It's important to note that topical analgesics generally provide localized and temporary pain relief and are not intended for widespread or chronic pain. They are typically recommended for acute, mild to moderate pain in specific areas.

Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer before using topical analgesics.

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