How Do I Choose the Best External Analgesic?

Autumn Rivers

External analgesics often can treat a variety of medical issues, including burns, insect bites and general muscle pain. Before you choose an external analgesic, you likely will want to consider the condition you are trying to treat, because many products are designed to clear up particular problems. You also should think about whether you prefer a gel, cream or spray, because external analgesics often come in all of these varieties. An additional factor in this decision should be the strength of the product, because prescription and over-the-counter medications tend to differ in potency.

External analgesics can treat insect bites and other medical issues.
External analgesics can treat insect bites and other medical issues.

One of the first details to consider is why you need to use an external analgesic, because some products are intended for a specific use. For example, there are analgesics that are meant to treat sunburns, in which case they usually have a cooling effect, especially if they also are indicated for use on slightly more serious burns. Other types of external analgesics are meant to soothe sore muscles and joints, while some are designed to treat the itching and irritation that may come from bug bites. If you prefer to keep just one external analgesic in the house, you also usually can find a product that treats various conditions, in part by numbing the area where you apply it so you do not feel a burning, itchy or painful sensation.

Another choice you will need to make when selecting an external analgesic is the form you prefer for this medication. For example, you usually can get a gel that you can apply to your skin, and this typically is an easy delivery system for most people. If you find gels to be too drying for your skin, then a cream may work better. If your discomfort prevents you from being able to touch your skin to rub the external analgesic onto the surface, then you may need a spray, which can be particularly desirable when treating burns.

You also likely will want to consider the strength of the external analgesic you choose, because potency varies from one product to another. If your health condition requires a trip to the doctor, then you can ask for prescription analgesics, which usually are stronger than over-the-counter varieties. On the other hand, over-the-counter analgesics typically work fine to treat minor issues, such as sunburns and bug bites. You may find that you need to apply the product more often than you would a prescription external analgesic, so it also might be a good idea to consider whether this slight drawback makes it worth asking your doctor for a prescription.

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