Prescription strength topical pain relievers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the form creams, gels, and patches applied to the skin. Topical pain relievers work best for mild to moderate pain from muscles, joints, and other pain sources close to the skin surface. The active ingredients are in the same drug class as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs can cause stomach upset, bleeding, or ulcers in people who are sensitive to anti-inflammatory medications. Topical pain relievers deliver a lower and more targeted dose of NSAIDs, which lowers the risk of side effects. Over-the-counter creams and rubs may also help for mild pain and soreness.
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