Should I Use Topical or Oral Pain Relief?

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Living a mindful lifestyle means selecting what substances to allow into your body. Making smart, fact-based choices avoids unnecessary exposure to harmful elements that can cause unpredictable reactions. When choosing between oral or topical relief to treat pain, it is important to understand how each method interacts with your body in order to choose an option that keeps you healthy.

How Oral Pain Relief Works

After ingesting the pill or liquid, the ingredients travel down your esophagus and into your stomach, where they dissolve. Once dissolved, they enter the small intestine and are released into the bloodstream. Blood carries the substances to the rest of the body looking for pain.1 Because the bloodstream runs through every organ in the body, the ingested ingredients also travel through those organs, whether or not they are targeted for pain relief. This means that oral medicines are sent to every part of the body, even if they are not necessary.

How Topical Pain Relief Works

Gel or cream is applied to the painful area and absorbed through the skin. Just below the skin, there is a framework of connective tissue that includes fat, fascia, blood vessels, and nerve endings that carry pain signals to the brain. When topical pain relievers are applied, the ingredients are absorbed into the nerve endings and block the brain’s pain receptors.2 Because topical pain relief products are applied in close proximity to the pain, the ingredients travel a shorter distance and are sent only to the area that needs relief.

Oral vs Topical Effectiveness

Though topical and oral pain relief products are comparable in efficacy,3 it takes longer for oral remedies to start working since they must travel through the entire body before reaching the pain. Topical pain relievers work locally and go straight to the source, helping alleviate pain more quickly and at a steady rate. It is natural to want to rub sore areas of our body. Applying topical pain relief gels or creams not only means you’re absorbing ingredients to satisfy pain, but they can also work as a physical therapy massage to ease aching muscles as you gently rub them into your skin.

Safety Concerns

The largest difference between oral and topical pain relief products is in their safety. The risk of complications and serious allergic reactions are higher for oral treatment since it interacts with more areas of the body. This is especially true for NSAID and steroid-based medicines, but orally-ingested natural pain relievers may cause reactions as well. Topical gels and creams ensure that any reactions are contained locally and will not affect organs such as the liver, kidneys, or intestinal tract. Side effects of topical pain relievers are uncommon and are usually due to the type of gel or cream used rather than the active ingredients themselves. This is why NeoRelief topical pain relief products use high-quality, 97% natural ingredients and avoid dyes or perfumes that are known to cause irritation.

For those with chronic pain like arthritis or muscle cramping, oral pain relief can damage the body over time and lose effectiveness as the body overcompensates for their effects.4 Because topical pain relievers do not affect the whole body, they are a good choice for repeat use with minimal side effects. Learn more about the benefits of using natural, topical pain relief in Opioid Alternatives: Exploring Gentle Pain Relief Solutions.