An analgesic, also known as a painkiller, is a type of medication used solely for the purpose of relieving pain. Analgesic drugs work in many different ways by affecting the central and peripheral nervous systems. They are not to be confused with anaesthetics, which only temporarily relieve pain and sometimes eliminate not only pain but also all sensation. Pain-killers applied directly to the skin are usually referred to as topical analgesics. They work by targeting a local area on the body to reduce inflammation. They also block any chemicals that are causing pain in this area. However, if you are going through severe pain, your doctor will have to prescribe a stronger medication, perhaps even a narcotic topical cream like fentanyl.
Here are different types of topical analgesics and how they work:
Unlike pain medication, they are used primarily to counter the effect of an irritant. Many of these counter-irritants contain soothing, cooling substances such as eucalyptus, wintergreen, and menthol. One very common example of a medication that acts as a counter-irritant that almost everyone has used is Vapo-rub.
Some topical analgesic creams contain the same chemical that is found in aspirin. When it is used, it is immediately absorbed. This affects the skin by relieving pain, especially in places close to joints such as fingers, elbows, knees, and toes.
One interesting type of topical analgesic is capsaicin. This type of painkiller contains hot chili peppers. When they are first applied to the body, they create a tingling, warming sensation. After frequent use, the slight burning sensation will subside. However, because capsaicin analgesic creams lack a lot of chemicals, they will need to be used for weeks before you notice a real difference.
A Word of Caution:
Unfortunately due to the chemical nature of topical analgesics, they are not suitable for everyone. People who have strong allergic reactions to adhesives on bandages may also be allergic to topical analgesics.
- Read all safety instructions. If the box comes with instructions, tape them to the cream tube so you never lose them.
- Do not apply any creams directly to the skin if there is an open wound or if the skin is broken.
- Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after you use any analgesic. Never touch your face or eyes without washing your hands.
- Do not combine the use of analgesic with a heating pad. In some cases, this can cause burns.
- Do not wrap a tight bandage over the cream. This could be detrimental to the healing process.
If you are allergic to any medication, including aspirin, or just taking any medication, check with your doctor before you start taking any over the counter topical analgesic.