The best muscle relaxant creams for post-exercise pain relief (2023)

Pushing yourself to the gym can be incredibly rewarding in the moment — euphoric even — and then comes the next day. Upper body blisters start when you try to sit up in bed, screaming calves accompany you on the walk to the bathroom, and shoulder pains soon prevent anything above the belly button. Even the strongest fall victim to muscle soreness, and while constant soreness shouldn't be the goal, occasional post-workout soreness is a healthy sign that you're pushing yourself, whether it's a deadlift PR or a long workout.

Fortunately, muscle relaxant creams can serve as a quasi-solution to restore a properly functioning body. When applied soon after the onset of pain, their warming or cooling effects can distract from angry muscles and provide minimal relief for the onset of the first and often most painful period.

Susie Judd, a British physical therapist explained that muscle healing goes through three stages: acute inflammatory response, recovery, and remodeling. "The first stage is the body's immediate defense mechanism against trauma and infection, which is why we have the primary signs of trauma, such as redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function," he said.

related stories

  • The best over-the-counter remedies for sweaty palms, according to dermatologists

      • Reading the Fine Print: How to Find Trusted Vitamins at the Internet's Largest Retailers

          The change in skin temperature stimulates blood flow and can speed healing—or at least provide some relief when muscles are more inflamed. Both heating and cooling topical creams can help relieve pain in a number of ways: by cooling swollen, inflamed muscles or by stimulating blood flow to the area to speed recovery.David Mason, a Wyoming-based personal trainer and owner of Barbells Abroad, explained that cooling muscle relaxant creams "usually contain menthol, which provides a cooling sensation and helps reduce muscle soreness." Alternatively, he said, an ice pack can be "used in conjunction with anti-inflammatory creams containing turmeric or CBD, which are known to help reduce inflammation."

          Whether designed for heating or cooling, muscle relaxant creams should be applied immediately.

          The best muscle relaxant creams: at a glance


          Tiger Balm pain relief ointment

          Buy Now From Amazon $23.75Go to Details

          (Video) How to Relieve Muscle Soreness and Recover FAST (4 Science-Based Tips)


          Sombra Natural Analgesic Gel

          Buy Now From Amazon $17.57Go to Details


          Bengay analgesic cream

          Buy Now From Amazon $7.37Go to Details

          better cooling

          Biofreeze analgesic gel

          Buy Now From Amazon $14.27Go to Details


          Kramp 911 Muscle Relaxing Lotion

          Buy now from Amazon $19.95Go to Details

          (Video) Best Topical Medicine for Pain

          doTERRA Deep Blue Scrub

          Buy Now From Amazon $32.00Go to Details

          Frequently asked questions about muscle relaxant creams

          How do muscle relaxants help with pain?

          Muscle warmers, in particular, mimic the same anti-inflammatory effects as ibuprofen by raising skin temperature and boosting blood flow. This difference in skin temperature signals the body that it needs treatment or attention, which is why bare skin turns red in the freezing cold. Judd explained that this happens by a process called vasodilation, in which the body relaxes the muscular walls of blood vessels and pumps more blood to parts of the body that need it most.

          The difference in skin temperature can also distract from the pain itself, giving it a mentally soothing quality in addition to its natural healing properties.

          When should you use muscle relaxant creams?

          Most muscle relaxant creams are meant to be used as needed. The simple answer is to use them for pain or when the muscles feel a little too tight. They're designed to ease movement through pain and are best used a few days after a hard workout.

          They are not meant to supplement stretching, foam rolling, or other recovery measures, so for those following strict exercise regimens who need to recover quickly, these other habits should still be applied.

          Should you wash your hands after use?

          Many of these creams contain active ingredients, such as menthol, which cause a slight tingling sensation or even warm or cool the parts of the body they are applied to. They should be kept well away from more sensitive areas like the eyes, the inside of the nose and, well, you can imagine where else.

          Are there any risks associated with muscle relaxant creams?

          Judd said some muscle relaxant creams run the risk of causing burns, blisters, rashes and a burning sensation. He also noted that most brands advise against using the cream on the same area more than three times a day "to prevent excessive blood flow to the area (hypervasodilation), which can have negative effects on the body."


          Tiger Balm pain relief ointment

          23,75 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          (Video) 5 Ways To Reduce Muscle Soreness (INSTANTLY)

          Tiger Balm's reputation as a seriously effective topical pain reliever outweighs many users' desire to understand what it contains or why it works. This balm uses a blend of ingredients such as peppermint oil, camphor and menthol that provide an intense sensation after application and therefore improve blood flow. For relieving average post-workout soreness, it's one of the best tools out there.

          Justin Tardif-Francoeur, personal trainer and massage therapist at Montreal Weights, did too. "It produces a sensation of heat that helps increase blood flow to the affected area, which can help reduce muscle stiffness and pain," he said.


          Sombra Natural Analgesic Gel

          17,57 $22,39 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          The biggest advantages of this gel is that no alcohol is used, so it fills the nostrils with a slightly pleasant aroma rather than one that reminds a bit of a sorting station. Instead of using harsher ingredients, it's designed to relieve all kinds of pain with a combination of aloe and menthol, and it's also designed to absorb quickly.

          THE BEST APP

          Penetrex Gel for joint and muscle treatment

          24,95 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          Gels and creams are all good, but sometimes hands need to be kept clean. This Penetrex option is a roll-on gel, meaning you don't have to touch a hair-raising drop that can easily contaminate other body surfaces. It contains ingredients such as arnica, glucosamine and vitamin B6 so that the muscles feel relieved and relaxed after each application.


          Bengay analgesic cream

          7,37 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          (Video) Do Muscle Relaxers STOP PAIN? How They Work & Answers To Common Concerns

          Bengay is a ubiquitous muscle cream for a reason: It's a solid choice at just over $7. When muscle relaxant creams become a frequent habit, shopping on a budget becomes more essential.

          better cooling

          Biofreeze analgesic gel

          14,27 $19,99 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          This gel is another roll-on option, but this one specializes in that wonderful cooling sensation thanks to menthol and can ease the burden of not only muscle pain, but also hindrances like joint pain caused by arthritis.


          Kramp 911 Muscle Relaxing Lotion

          19,95 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          For quick relief from muscle pain (ie a severe cramp), keep some of this aptly named Cramp 911 on deck. It works in just 15 seconds and with a roller bottle it is also easy to apply. It also lasts up to eight hours, so it can be used at night if muscle aches are ruining a good night's sleep.

          doTERRA Deep Blue Scrub

          32,00 $46,67 $

          Shop now on Amazon

          This scrub is a perfect choice for those who want to feel pain relief and moisturize at the same time. This two-part scrub combines cool-touch ingredients with hydrating emollients to help restore dry skin.

          Don't push too hard

          Muscle relaxant creams can be used to relieve pain, but it is important not to use them to push injuries. While some pains may go away with a little encouragement from stretching or light weight exercises, others will only get worse. Never use a muscle relaxant cream to endure anything worse than a dull ache, and even then, double check with a doctor when in doubt.

          Go to checkout…

          • The 10 best adjustable bars, tested and rated by athletes
          • The 10 best exercises to burn calories and lose weight
          • The 10 best ab exercises to strengthen your core in the new year
          (Video) Best muscle pain relief cream | The 6 Best Muscle Pain Relief Creams & Gels


          What is the best topical muscle relaxer? ›

          The Best Muscle Rubs
          • Best Overall. Biofreeze Pain Relief Muscle Rub Gel. ...
          • Doctor-Recommended. Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy. ...
          • Best Ointment. Tiger Balm Sport Rub Pain Relieving Ointment (2-Pack) ...
          • Best Homeopathic. Boiron Arnicare Gel. ...
          • Top Rated. DōTerra dōTERRA Deep Blue Rub. ...
          • Best for Travel. ...
          • Best Roll-On. ...
          • Classic for a Reason.
          Aug 9, 2022

          What is the best pain killer for muscle pain after workout? ›

          Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine, such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen (brand name: Advil). OTC creams and gels (brand names: IcyHot and Aspercreme) that contain menthol or capsaicin can ease muscle soreness.

          Do muscle relaxers help with post workout pain? ›

          Pain relief; muscle relaxants

          “If you've overworked your muscles, swelling, redness and heat are signs of inflammation,” says McCue. Methocarbamol (Robaxin) is a muscle relaxant that blocks nerve impulses sent to your brain. “These are useful if you have a muscle that tightens up or spasms and causes pain,” McCue says.

          How do you relax muscle pain after working out? ›

          How to relieve sore muscles after a workout
          1. Get moving. Believe it or not, one of the best ways to reduce muscle soreness is to get them moving. ...
          2. Be sure to warm up. ...
          3. Progress slowly into a new exercise program. ...
          4. Soak in a salt bath. ...
          5. Take a pain reliever. ...
          6. Make time for recovery. ...
          7. Try a split-day routine.
          Sep 8, 2021

          What is the strongest muscle relaxer for pain? ›

          Methocarbamol works as a muscle relaxer by blocking pain sensations that reach the brain. Together with physical therapy and rest, it effectively provides pain relief with less sedating effects.

          Do muscle relaxant creams work? ›

          They work by causing the skin to feel cool and then warm. These feelings on the skin distract you from feeling the aches/pains deeper in your muscles, joints, and tendons. Some products should not be used on children younger than 12 years without a doctor's advice.

          What is the strongest OTC pain medication? ›

          Naproxen. Naproxen (Aleve) is the most powerful anti-inflammatory pain reliever available without a prescription. It is especially effective for sprains, sunburns and arthritis and other conditions.

          Does Voltaren help with muscle soreness? ›

          Voltaren Emulgel helps with the relief of localized traumatic inflammation and pain such as muscle pain. Sports injuries and strains due to overuse are the most common causes of muscle pain. Here we look at how to identify and treat muscle pain.

          Is Voltaren good for muscle recovery? ›

          It relieves pain to help you get moving again. Voltaren Emulgel can be used for the relief of body pain, inflammation and swelling in: Soft-tissue injuries: trauma of the tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints, due to sprains, strains, bruises and backache (e.g. in sports injuries);

          What muscle relaxants post workout? ›

          Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and in a salt form, it pulls excess water and lactic acid buildup away from the injured tissues and reduces swelling,” she explains. After your next intense strength training workout, fill your bathtub with warm (not hot) water and pour 2 cups of Epsom salt in.

          What medicine for muscle relaxation after workout? ›

          List of centrally acting SMRs
          Generic nameBrand nameForm
          chlorzoxazoneParafon Forte, Lorzonetablet
          cyclobenzaprineFexmid, Flexeril, Amrixtablet, extended-release capsule
          metaxaloneSkelaxin, Metaxalltablet
          5 more rows

          What is the strongest natural muscle relaxer? ›

          1. Chamomile. Chamomile is an ancient herb that's used to treat a variety of ailments, including muscle spasms. It contains 36 flavonoids, which are compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties.

          How do you reduce inflammation after exercise? ›

          Taking about 10 minutes to stretch before and after intense activity helps prepare your body to adjust to changes in demand, and has been linked to reduced inflammation in some studies. Stretching should focus on the areas you find become inflamed, as well as areas connecting to them.

          How long does it take for muscles to stop hurting after exercise? ›

          Sore muscles after exercise

          It can affect people of all fitness levels, particularly after trying a new activity or pushing yourself a bit harder than usual. Usually your muscles will stop aching in 2 to 5 days and you won't need any medical attention.

          How long after working out should your muscles stop hurting? ›

          What's more is that this soreness can hang around for a while. "Usually you don't actually feel sore until about 24 to 72 hours after your workout, and then this soreness can persist for up to three days," says Dr. Hedt. "This is why it's called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS."

          What is the most rapid muscle relaxant? ›

          Succinylcholine. Succinylcholine is the only depolarizing muscle relaxant.

          Which is the fastest acting muscle relaxant? ›

          Traditionally succinylcholine has been the most commonly used muscle relaxant for this purpose because of its fast onset and short duration; unfortunately, it can have serious side effects.

          Is there an over the counter muscle relaxant? ›

          Are there over-the-counter muscle relaxers? There are no over-the-counter (OTC) muscle relaxants in the United States. But some OTC medications can help muscle issues (like soreness), such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and acetaminophen.

          What is better than Voltaren gel? ›

          Lidocaine is an anesthetic and works by blocking nerve conduction to numb the feeling of pain. This makes the lidocaine versions of Aspercreme, Icy Hot, and Bengay better for nerve pain than Voltaren.

          Does lidocaine cream work for muscle pain? ›

          Lidocaine can be used to treat backaches, muscle soreness, mild joint pain, itching, hemorrhoid irritation, and nerve pain. Generally, lidocaine cream takes around 30-60 minutes to start working and may last for 1-3 hours, depending on how long the cream stays on the skin.

          Does Bengay really work? ›

          Does Bengay help arthritis pain? A person can use analgesic creams such as Bengay to temporarily relieve minor aches and pains. A 2016 study found that applying topical analgesics containing menthol, one of the active ingredients in Bengay, improves skin blood flow.

          What is the No 1 for pain relief? ›

          Acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is usually recommended as a first line treatment for mild to moderate pain.

          What's the strongest anti-inflammatory? ›

          What is the strongest anti-inflammatory medication? Research shows diclofenac is the strongest and most effective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine available.10 Diclofenec is sold under the prescription brand names Cambia, Cataflam, Zipsor, and Zorvolex.

          What ointment is good for nerve pain? ›

          Capsaicin is used to help relieve a certain type of pain known as neuralgia (shooting or burning pain in the nerves). Capsaicin is also used to help relieve minor pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis or muscle sprains and strains.

          What is the difference between biofreeze and Voltaren? ›

          Biofreeze contains menthol, and like other menthol-containing products, it alleviates pain via counter-irritation, specifically cooling the surface of the skin. Voltaren instead treats pain by temporarily blocking the production of pain-signaling chemicals called prostaglandins.

          Why was Voltaren taken off the market? ›

          World's Most Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk : Shots - Health News Diclofenac — sold under the brand names Voltaren, Cambia, Cataflam and Zipsor — raises the risk of a heart attack by about 40 percent.

          Should I use Voltaren before or after exercise? ›

          Bottom line… it is not advisable or safe to take anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs prior to a strenuous workout. Taking an NSAID before exercise will increase inflammation, put your gut at risk, your heart at risk, your kidneys at risk and it will have no effect on your recovery.

          Who should not use Voltaren gel? ›

          You should not use Voltaren Arthritis Pain gel if you are allergic to diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, Flector, and others), or if you have ever had an asthma attack or severe allergic reaction after taking aspirin or an NSAID.

          Why can't I use Voltaren gel on my back? ›

          Now, you may be asking, “Why can't I use Voltaren gel on my back or shoulder?” This is because it hasn't been well-studied on these body areas. More research is needed to see if Voltaren gel is safe and effective for these uses.

          What is a strong anti-inflammatory for muscles? ›

          The main types of NSAIDs include:
          • ibuprofen.
          • naproxen.
          • diclofenac.
          • celecoxib.
          • mefenamic acid.
          • etoricoxib.
          • indomethacin.
          • aspirin for pain relief (low-dose aspirin is not normally considered to be an NSAID)

          What are the top three muscle relaxers? ›

          • Carisoprodol (Soma). Carisoprodol relaxes muscles and eases pain and stiffness caused by acute bone and muscle problems, often caused by an injury. ...
          • Chlorzoxazone (Lorzone). ...
          • Cyclobenzaprine (Amrix, Fexmid, FlexePax Kit, FusePaq Tabradol). ...
          • Dantrolene (Dantrium).

          Do muscle relaxers help with muscle recovery after a workout? ›

          One side effect of this drug is relaxation of the skeletal muscle, which will lead to sedation and less general motor activity. This can help someone who is recovering from a musculoskeletal injury. The sedation leads the patient to rest, which will lead to better healing during the initial time after the injury.

          What happens when you take muscle relaxers after a workout? ›

          Workout Wrecker: Muscle relaxers

          That can help ease painful muscle spasms, but it can also cause side effects like dry mouth and blurred vision, explains Dixon. As a result, you'll feel more dehydrated, which could make it harder to push yourself through your workout.

          Does Icy Hot help after a workout? ›

          Topical analgesic heat rubs include Aspercreme, BenGay, and IcyHot. These medications are called counterirritants and do not actually warm the muscle, but rather cause the sensation of warmth and/or cooling of the skin. These rubs have no effect on the muscle and do not change the temperature of the skin.

          How do you loosen chronically tight muscles? ›

          Here are some effective ways to loosen muscles:
          1. Stretching. Stretching is an effective way to loosen tight muscles and improve flexibility. ...
          2. Massage. An effective way to loosen tight muscles and improve circulation is massage. ...
          3. Heat Therapy. ...
          4. Exercise. ...
          5. Hydration. ...
          6. Improved Flexibility. ...
          7. Increased Circulation. ...
          8. Reduced Discomfort.
          Dec 19, 2022

          What vitamin is like a muscle relaxer? ›

          Magnesium plays a major role in the tissue and muscle health in any part of your body. While calcium helps generate contractions in the muscles, magnesium is in charge of helping muscles relax after said contractions.

          Why is my body so inflamed after working out? ›

          Inflammation after exercise is simply blood rushing to the area to heal irritated muscle," says Cady. "In this case, inflammation is one of the earliest stages of the recovery process to building a stronger, fitter, leaner body."

          Why do I get inflamed after working out? ›

          When we workout, we damage our muscles. Then, our bodies repair them and grow back even stronger. Inflammation comes into play during the repair process when the body increases blood flow to the affected area to replenish oxygen, fuel muscles, and clear out waste.

          Why are my muscles inflamed after working out? ›

          "Muscle soreness occurs because muscle and the connective tissue around it get damaged during exercise," explains Dr. Hedt. "This is completely normal and nothing to worry about, though. In fact, it's needed for muscle growth, since muscle is built back stronger during this repair process."

          How sore is too sore after workout? ›

          Soreness is considered normal if it occurs between 24-72 hours after a workout, and if it does not prevent you from completing normal daily activities. If it lasts longer than this, or is so intense that it prevents you from functioning normally, it could be a sign of significant damage.

          What is a home remedy for muscle pain? ›

          Home remedies for muscle aches

          Rest: Rest the affected area and discontinue the activity that caused the injury. Ice: Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas to help relieve pain and reduce swelling. Apply ice to the area for 15–20 minutes three times a day. Compression: Use a compression bandage to help reduce swelling.

          What medicine is good for muscle pain? ›

          Take over-the-counter pain relievers (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen). Try complementary therapies, such as massage, meditation or acupuncture.

          Can barely walk after exercise? ›

          After the Workout

          Within the first 48 hours following leg day, you will most likely experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the muscles of your legs which may make it hard to walk, sit, or extend your legs.

          What is the best pain reliever for sore muscles after workout? ›

          You've got a lot of choices, but the best picks for muscle pain are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, store-brand) or naproxen (Aleve). Muscle soreness generally stems from inflammation and relieving inflammation pain what these two do best.

          Is heat or ice better after workout? ›

          In conclusion, cold and heat therapies are both effective for enhancing muscle recovery and reducing muscle damage with heat being superior immediately after exercise and cold at 24 hours after exercise. Cold is superior for pain relief immediately after exercise and at 24 hours.

          Is there a topical muscle relaxant? ›

          Your ReNue pharmacist can work with your physician to create the best topical muscle relaxer or analgesic to address your specific pain needs. Delivering the right medication directly to the point of pain means less medication can be used to achieve the necessary pain relief with fewer side effects.

          Which muscle relaxer works directly on the muscle? ›

          Dantrolene works directly on the muscle. Cannabis extract works on the brain and spinal cord as well as the muscles. Because dantrolene only works on the muscles, it is thought to have fewer side-effects compared with other muscle relaxants.

          What is stronger than biofreeze? ›

          CryoDerm's formula has a concentration almost double that of Biofreeze, clocking in at 10%. While this can mean faster results, products with a higher menthol concentration are more likely to irritate your skin – so people with extremely sensitive skin may want to keep that in mind.

          Is biofreeze a muscle relaxer? ›

          It delivers relief from: Muscles strains and sprains. Shoulder and arm discomfort. Arthritis.

          Does EMU cream really work? ›

          As an occlusive moisturizer, emu oil does a fantastic job of improving hydration and preventing water loss. In fact, a lotion with emu oil as a base may penetrate and help your skin better than pure emu oil. Studies also suggest that emu oil may have fewer side effects for people with dermatitis and eczema.

          What is the longest acting muscle relaxant? ›

          Overview of NMJ blockers
          Depolarizing NMJ blockers (depolarizing muscle relaxants)
          Intermediate-actingCisatracurium35–60 min
          Long-actingPancuronium90–120 min
          Tubocurarine60–120 min
          7 more rows
          Jan 26, 2022

          What is a true muscle relaxer? ›

          Muscle relaxants (also called skeletal muscle relaxants) are a diverse group of medicines that have the ability to relax or reduce tension in muscle. Some (such as baclofen, methocarbamol, and tizanidine) work in the brain or spinal cord to block over-excited neuronal (nerve) pathways.

          What is safest muscle relaxer for elderly? ›

          Some muscle relaxants (baclofen and tizanidine) can be used in older persons, again accounting for kidney and liver function. Opioids have limited use in common spine-related pain, but can be used with caution in cases that don't respond to treatment.

          What is the best anti-inflammatory for muscle pain? ›

          Naproxen [Aleve] and ibuprofen are better for inflammation and muscle strains. A bonus of Naproxen is you can take it twice a day versus every 4 to 6 hours like with acetaminophen. This can be more convenient for many people.”

          What is the safest muscle relaxant to take? ›


          Taken as 800 mg tablets 3 to 4 times a day, metaxalone (Skelaxin) has the fewest reported side effects. It's also the least likely of the muscle relaxants to make you sleepy. It may work better for chronic lower back pain that is flaring up, rather than for pain that is new.

          What is the shortest acting muscle relaxant? ›

          Among all the muscle relaxants available, succinylcholine is the only one with a fast (approximately equal to 1 min) onset and a fast recovery. Therefore it is still the most frequently used muscle relaxant for rapid-sequence induction despite its well-known side-effects.

          Do muscle relaxers have pain relief? ›

          Muscle relaxants used properly can provide effective pain relief. While taking them, you should avoid alcohol and operating any heavy machinery until you know how you will respond to them.


          1. The Top 7 Pain Relief Creams
          (Fitness With Cindy)
          2. Muscle Recovery | 5 Ways to Reduce Soreness
          3. BODY PAIN / SORENESS : When to take a Muscle Relaxant | Side effects | Can Ashwagandha Help ?
          (Dr.Education - FITNESS & NUTRITION)
          4. Best Cream for Sore Muscles in 2023 - Top 5 Review | Product Benefits Pain Relief, Arthritis Pain
          (Insane Deals)
          5. **CBD** Powerful Muscle Pain Relief Cream **Cannabidiol**
          (Malena's Creations)
          6. 8 Best Things to do After a Workout
          (Gravity Transformation - Fat Loss Experts)


          Top Articles
          Latest Posts
          Article information

          Author: Dean Jakubowski Ret

          Last Updated: 06/22/2023

          Views: 6035

          Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

          Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

          Author information

          Name: Dean Jakubowski Ret

          Birthday: 1996-05-10

          Address: Apt. 425 4346 Santiago Islands, Shariside, AK 38830-1874

          Phone: +96313309894162

          Job: Legacy Sales Designer

          Hobby: Baseball, Wood carving, Candle making, Jigsaw puzzles, Lacemaking, Parkour, Drawing

          Introduction: My name is Dean Jakubowski Ret, I am a enthusiastic, friendly, homely, handsome, zealous, brainy, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.