Treating Everyday Aches & Pains

Treating Everyday Aches & Pains

You might have a pulled shoulder after a few hours of yard work. Or a knee
you twisted hauling in the groceries. How do you navigate the drugstore
aisle to know what to take for everyday aches and pains?

Christine Jacobsen, of Health Mart Pharmacy has the breakdown of best
options to treat temporary pain.

For mild pain that comes and goes, rest – and maybe cold or heat – may be
all you need. Then, over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen (such as Tylenol
or Excedrin) or aspirin every four hours may relieve the kind of pain that
shows up after an ambitious spring-cleaning or daylong tug o’ war with some
particularly stubborn weeds.1

When pain lasts longer, OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories other than
aspirin may do the trick. These work by not only decreasing pain, but also
inflammation. Examples include ibuprofen such as Motrin or Advil, or
naproxen such as Aleve or Naprosyn. Check the package for dosing

For quick relief affecting just a few joints, topical medications may be the
way to go. These are absorbed through the skin. They come as sprays, or
creams or gels you rub in, or patches that stick to the skin. They’re most
effective for joints that are close to the skin’s surface. 2

You may be most familiar with topical medications containing salicylates,
which is found in aspirin – think BENGAY, Aspercreme, or Flexall. Sometimes
products with menthol (ArthriCare, Icy Hot, Therapeutic Mineral Ice) also
work to override pain sensations with heat or cold. But, did you know that
capsaicin, a substance found in chili peppers, is also sometimes used for
arthritis pain? Olé! It works by depleting a chemical in nerve cells, thereby
interrupting pain messages. Products include Zostrix and Capzasin-P.2,3

Do these products work? Well, some people say they help, but scientists note
that the research only reports a mild benefit. Might be worth a try. Do take a
few precautions, however. For example, be sure to wash your hands after
applying capsaicin and avoid touching your eyes. If you’ve ever accidentally
done this after chopping hot chili peppers, you know what I mean! Also avoid
using any of these products on broken or irritated skin, or with a heating pad
or bandage. If you know you’re allergic to aspirin or you’re taking blood
thinners, check with your doctor before using products containing

Another topical option is a Lidocaine patch (Lidoderm). These are approved
for shingles, but are sometimes also used to numb the pain of osteoarthritis
for 12 hours at a time.2

NSAID pills can be tough on the stomach, so you might want to give topical
NSAID creams or gels a try. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
approved a prescription NSAID gel containing diclofenac (Voltaren) for
osteoarthritis in hands, wrists, elbows, feet, ankles, or knees. A patch is also

If these steps don’t manage your symptoms, or if you find yourself using OTC
medications very often, be sure to have a talk with your doctor. Then, feel
free to stop by with any questions you have for me.


1. Mayo Clinic: “Arthritis pain: Do’s and don’ts.”

2. Mayo Clinic: “Arthritis pain relief: Creams and gels for aching joints.”

3. Arthritis Today: “Osteoarthritis Medications.”

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