The 14 Best Muscle Pain Relief Sprays and Rubs to Soothe All Those Pesky Aches

For arthritis, sciatica and more

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young woman experiencing pain in her knee at the gym
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Muscle pain relief is no joke. This is especially true if you’re a person who suffers from hard-to-manage conditions like arthritis or sciatica, or stress-related aches and pains. It can definitely take some time to figure out what works best for you, whether it be stretching, Epsom salt baths or daily walks through the neighborhood. But what happens when you experience a flare-up, you need relief now and you can’t seem to pick the best muscle pain relief sprays and rubs? (This is where we come in—spoiler alert, we love this one from Biofreeze, while this option has Serena Williams’ stamp of approval.) Through interviewing medical experts, researching muscle pain relief and some hands-on experience ourselves, we’ve managed to compile a list of the very best muscle pain relief sprays, rubs and gels. Check out our top picks ahead.

The Best Muscle Pain Relief Sprays and Rubs at a Glance


Best Overall Muscle Pain Relief Spray

Biofreeze Menthol Spray

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Best Overall Muscle Pain Relief Gel

WILL Perform Cool Menthol & Camphor Pain Relief Gel

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Best Instant Muscle Pain Relief Spray

Premiere’s Natural Pain Relief Spray

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Strongest Muscle Pain Relief Product

Bengay Ultra Strength Topical Pain Relief Cream

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Best Pain Relief Spray for Athletes

Tiger Balm Active Muscle Spray

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Meet the Experts

  • Stewart Parnacott is a certified registered nurse anesthetist, an instructor at the Baylor College of Medicine and a certified personal trainer. 
  • Christynne Helfrich, PT, DPT, OCS is a physical therapist at Hinge Health. She has been a practicing clinician since 2010. Helfrich is a board-certified orthopedic specialist and a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. Prior to joining Hinge Health, she practiced in a variety of outpatient settings, worked with collegiate football teams and worked with members in their own home.

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What Ingredients Work Best for Muscle Pain Relief Sprays and Rubs?

1. Topical Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

“Studies have found that topical NSAIDs can effectively reduce muscle pain and inflammation,” Helfrich says. She points to this 2016 study that found that NSAIDs offered ample relief for acute muscle pain. NSAIDs are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for painful health conditions like arthritis. Non-prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs can include aspirin and ibuprofen. Meanwhile, some common topical NSAIDs are diclofenac sodium 1 percent gel and diclofenac epolamine 1.3 percent patch. You won’t find too many of these on our list, since some require a prescription. Additionally, if you’re experiencing serious and ongoing pain, swelling and redness in your joints and muscles, it’s best to consult with a doctor. 

2. Menthol 

“Menthol and camphor [a common ingredient in remedies applied to the skin] work by producing a cooling sensation that can reduce inflammation and ease discomfort,” Parnacott explains. Helfrich echoes this by noting that “menthol-based products may provide effective short-term relief for muscle pain.” A 2020 article also concluded that OTC menthol gels and sprays were especially effective when it came to speeding up recovery after exercise-induced injuries. Menthol can provide a cooling sensation, which may feel soothing to an achy joint, muscle or bruise, and has been found to help with blood flow, too.

3. Magnesium

According to Helfrich, magnesium is helpful when used in either cream or oil form. She says that research is currently limited on its benefits for topical application, but it’s been known to “play a large part in muscle function and relaxation.”

4. Camphor

Camphor is an organic compound found in trees. It can be used as a primary active ingredient in pain relief sprays, but it’s especially effective combined with menthol. The ingredient is typically found in topical lotions and creams and can help with irritation and pain relief related to arthritis, burns, fungal infections and more.

What Is More Effective for Pain Relief, Gel or Spray?

The choice between a gel or spray will mainly depend on the user’s personal preference, Parnacott says. “Sprays are generally preferred for large muscle groups or hard-to-reach areas, as they offer broad coverage and quick absorption,” he explains. “Gels may be more suitable for targeted pain relief and can be gently massaged into the affected area.” Helfrich says that both can be equally effective and will depend on the application method and the person’s pain level. “It’s essential to read product labels and understand the ingredients and their intended use,” she explains. “If you have medical conditions or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional before using any new pain relief products.” 

Is a Heating or a Cooling Spray Better for Muscle Pain Relief?

Muscle pain relief sprays and gels often come with cooling or warming properties, depending on which product you buy. Cooling sprays may have menthol or peppermint oil that immediately offers a chilly sensation upon application. Meanwhile, warming sprays will likely spread heat throughout the afflicted area as you massage it in.“ Cooling sprays are often used with acute injuries like an ankle sprain or a pulled muscle to help provide immediate pain relief,” Helfrich says. “Heating sprays usually contain ingredients like capsaicin, which produces a warming effect. They are commonly used for muscle soreness, stiffness and chronic pain conditions, as they can help increase blood flow to the area and relax tense muscles.”

How We Chose the Best Muscle Pain Relief Sprays or Rubs

After we chatted with our medical experts, we took a few more factors into account when searching for the best muscle pain relief products: 

  • Budget: Products for chronic pain or pain relief can quickly rack up. We made sure to include a variety of items at a wide budget so everyone can find something. 
  • Customer ratings and reviews: Every product we chose has at least a 4-star rating. We scoured reviews from buyers to ensure the item was helpful in relieving their aches and pains. 
  • Ingredients: We ensured that all of the active ingredients in each product had already been vouched for by our experts. Many muscle pain relief sprays and rubs contain lidocaine as the primary additive, but since our experts didn’t recommend it, we steered clear and instead opted for menthol, magnesium and camphor.

The Best Muscle Pain Relief Sprays and Rubs

Best Overall Muscle Pain Relief Spray

1. Biofreeze Menthol Spray


  • Pro: the 360-degree continuous spray allows you to get hard-to-reach spots 
  • Con: some buyers say it initially has a strong scent, but it goes away after application 
  • Active Ingredient: menthol

Our top pick goes to the Biofreeze Menthol Spray, a highly-rated option that offers a cooling sensation after massaging it into the skin. Its active ingredient is 10.5 percent of menthol and the nozzle of the bottle can disperse product at 360 degrees, meaning it’s way easier to reach tough spots. One user raved about their experience with Biofreeze: “I like the spray version as it even sprays upside down and reaches any place,” they write. “I have arthritis and this is the only product I use for immediate relief.”

Best Overall Muscle Pain Relief Gel

2. WILL Perform Cool Menthol & Camphor Pain Relief Gel

WILL Perform

  • Pro: the rollerball offers hands-free application 
  • Con: it’s best for minor aches and pains, maybe not larger issues 
  • Active Ingredients: menthol and camphor 

We love that this menthol and camphor gel combo is available in a rollerball, complete with a three-pronged metal design for hands-free application. According to the brand, it cools and penetrates the afflicted area, regardless of whether it’s a larger muscle group or a small bruise. Co-founded by Serena Williams, the WILL brand is a great option for everyone from novice gym goers to marathon runners. You can apply this gel up to four times a day, with instructions suggesting it works best for joints and muscles like the shoulder, neck, knee, leg, back and wrist areas.

Best Instant Muscle Pain Relief Spray

3. Premiere’s Natural Pain Relief Spray

Premiere's Pain Spray

  • Pro: it’s said to help with a variety of pains like arthritis, cramps and backaches 
  • Con: the spray bottle application may be a bit messy 
  • Active Ingredient: menthol 

Best for folks dealing with arthritis, back pain, sore muscles or stiff joints, the Premiere’s Natural Pain Relief Spray has 7 percent of menthol as its primary ingredient. According to the brand, it can offer relief within two minutes of applying, and you can use it as often as you want and in conjunction with prescription drugs. (We still recommend talking to your doctor prior to doing so, especially if you’re already taking medications for pain relief.) Beyond menthol, the ingredients also list peppermint, eucalyptus, wintergreen and coconut oil for cooling topical relief. Because of its natural materials, it’s non-irritating and safe for sensitive skin. Take it from one buyer, who writes, “I have used this product for many years and love it! I have tried other products, but none of them even compare.” 

Best for Joint Muscle Pain Relief Spray

4. AleveX Pain Relieving Spray


  • Pro: the formula contains both menthol and camphor for optimal pain relief 
  • Con: you should only use it three to four times a day
  • Active Ingredients: menthol and camphor 

You know when you’re in a ton of pain and you think to yourself, If I don’t alleviate this feeling right away I’m simply never going to make it? That’s what AleveX’s pain relief spray is for. It contains a whopping 16 percent of menthol and 5.5 percent of camphor, which work together to offer near immediate cooling and pain relief. Whether you’re having a stress-induced backache or a pesky arthritis flare-up, you can use this product, which apparently dries four times quicker than the leading topical pain relief spray. Buyers report grabbing this spray for everything from nerve damage-related itchiness to bone-on-bone injury, all writing that it does exactly what it says.

Best Overall Muscle Pain Relief Foam

5. Theraworx Relief Muscle Cramp & Spasm Foam


  • Pro: it works to prevent future cramps and relieve current ones
  • Con: the brand recommends using it twice daily for best results 
  • Active Ingredient: magnesium 

If you frequently experience toe-curling, stop-you-in-your-tracks cramps, the Theraworx Relief Muscle Cramp & Spasm Foam was made for you. The foamy texture was specifically crafted to help alleviate muscle cramps and spasms in the moment, along with any soreness after the fact. Magnesium is the main ingredient found in this product, so it’ll ideally help muscles relax. Since it’s made with more natural ingredients, you can use it on an as-needed basis. The brand also states that it’s not greasy or oily, and there’s no strong odor.

Strongest Muscle Pain Relief Product

6. Bengay Ultra Strength Topical Pain Relief Cream


  • Pro: it uses a trio of ingredients to address aches and pains 
  • Con: some users may not like the warm, then cool temperature change of the product 
  • Active Ingredients: camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate 

Bengay is a brand most known for its wide array of pain relief products, so it’s no surprise that the topical cream landed on our list. It contains three active ingredients (menthol, camphor and methyl salicylate) that work together to quickly alleviate pain. Upon application it feels cool, but as you rub it in and massage your bruise, ache or strain, the product slowly warms up for deep relief. Buyers were generally happy with their experience, noting that there’s no weird smell or greasy feel, and it worked well at helping with tough aches.

Best Pain Relief Spray for Athletes

7. Tiger Balm Active Muscle Spray

Tiger Balm

  • Pro: the formula is non-greasy, so it won’t leave residue after application 
  • Con: a few reviewers noted that this product has a strong scent 
  • Active Ingredient: menthol and camphor 

Tiger Balm is well known for its intense ointment. While the product is aces at relieving any type of ache or pain, we found that its Active Muscle Spray is a head or two above the former, especially if you’re an athlete. It’s an analgesic spray, which means that it specifically acts as a pain killer for users. Menthol (16 percent) and camphor (7 percent) work in tandem to soothe muscles and joints pre- or post-workout (or both). It also has methyl salicylate, and you can use it between three to four times a day. 

Best Pain Relief Spray for Arthritis

8. Stopain Extra Strength Pain Relief Spray


  • Pro: supports joint flexibility and mobility 
  • Con: you shouldn’t apply it more than four times in one day 
  • Active Ingredient: menthol

Billed as a continuous spray that can be used up to four times in one day, the Stopain Extra Strength Pain Relief Spray uses menthol as its active ingredient to offer fast relief to arthritis-related muscle and back pain. The ingredient list also mentions methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a chemical typically used to treat arthritis, and glucosamine, a naturally occurring compound that has anti-inflammatory properties. One shopper writes, “This spray is so powerful and easy to use. It takes away the pain of my fibromyalgia and arthritis.”

Best Muscle Mist Herbal Pain Relief Spray

9. J.R. Watkins MUSCLE Pain Relief Spray

J.R. Watkins

  • Pro: the ingredients are natural and paraben-free 
  • Con: the peppermint scent may be a bit strong for some users
  • Active Ingredients: magnesium, camphor, vitamin D, peppermint 

J.R. Watkins MUSCLE Pain Relief Spray swaps out menthol for a medley of ingredients like magnesium, camphor, vitamin D and peppermint. The natural magnesium and camphor are meant to assist in pain relief, while vitamin D and peppermint are said to offer relief to sore muscles and joint aches. This product is also free from parabens, or chemicals that are often added to cosmetics.

Best Cooling Pain Relief Gel

10. Dragon Arnica Joint and Muscle Pain Relief Gel


  • Pro: it works especially well after workouts or when an injury has just occurred
  • Con: you shouldn’t use a heating pad with this gel 
  • Active Ingredient: menthol

Although arnica wasn’t mentioned by our experts, there is some research backing up its abilities to help with swelling and pain relief. This option from Dragon uses arnica and menthol to quickly address joints and muscles. According to the brand, its gel formulation can relieve pain on contact. Just note that you shouldn’t use it with a heating pad since it does have a cooling sensation.

Best Pain Relief Spray for Sleep

11. Asutra Spray Pain Away Magnesium Oil Spray


  • Pro: all ingredients have been rated “good” by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) 
  • Con: pricey 
  • Active Ingredient: capsaicin 

Helfrich says that capsaicin is another effective pain relief ingredient, noting that the naturally-occurring additive can help with inflamed bruises, aches and injuries. Magnesium and capsaicin are found in this pain relief spray from Asutra, with the former being the most active ingredient on the list. According to the brand, this spray not only helps with achy muscles and joints, but promotes restful sleep, too. (Magnesium, which is usually found in food, impacts sleep.) That means that if you often wake up with pesky pains and counting sheep won’t help you find sleep, this spray will be a total game-changer in your life. It’s free from parabens, phthalates and synthetic colors and fragrances, is cruelty-free and vegan.

Best Pain Relief Gel for Sciatica

12. KT Health Pain Relief Gel

KT Health

  • Pro: it’s a water-based formula that quickly seeps into the skin 
  • Con: it has a scent, which some users may not love 
  • Active Ingredients: camphor, menthol 

This gel from KT Health may work wonders for folks dealing with sciatica, an injury caused by pinching of the sciatic nerve. It’s made from natural ingredients like mountain arnica and witch hazel, with camphor and menthol being its active ones. The brand notes that after application, the primary additives are slowly released over time for ample relief throughout the following hours. You can use it on kinesiology tape, too, which is a definite bonus since it has cooling and warming sensations when you put it on.

Best Natural Pain Relief Gel

13. Dr. Hoy’s Natural Pain Relief Gel


  • Pro: the natural ingredient list is non-toxic and cruelty- and paraben-free 
  • Con: it’s safe to use on children two and up, but they may not like the heavy menthol scent 
  • Active Ingredients: camphor, menthol 

This all-natural option from pain relief brand Dr. Hoy’s is said to help with anything from backaches to arthritis and everything in between. Unlike most of the other picks on our list, children aged two and up can use it. The ingredient list is non-toxic and cruelty- and paraben-free, while the gel itself won’t leave a lingering oily feeling or scent. (Some users report there being a menthol scent upon application, but it does fade away after some time.)

Best Muscle Pain Relief Rub

14. Medline ActivICE Spray Cooling Gel


  • Pro: the formula contains cooling properties and skin-soothing conditioners  
  • Con: some buyers report that the spray mechanism is a little hard to use at times
  • Active Ingredient: menthol 

Complete with 8 percent menthol, this spray cooling gel also contains skin-softening ingredients to offer a bit of conditioning each time you rub it in. You can use it before or after a workout, when you wake up or whenever you need it throughout the day; just note that you can’t apply it more than four times in one day. One reviewer mentions that they often wake up from intense lower back pain, but this product helps in the moment and continues to assist with pain relief over the next few hours.

Best Vegan Pain Relief Gel

15. Sagely Naturals Pain Relief Stick

Sagely Naturals

  • Pro: the ingredient list is 95 percent natural
  • Con: there’s only 1.7-ounces of product 
  • Active Ingredient: menthol 

Sagely made sure to produce a totally vegan pain relief product with the Naturals Pain Relief Stick. It has 10 percent menthol in it, along with peppermint essential oil, vitamin E, omega 3 and six fatty acids to assist with the pain relief process. The stick form makes it easy to quickly rub on joints and muscles, while the all-day support is especially helpful for aches that never seem to completely disappear.

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Freelance Writer

Melissa has been writing, editing, and producing product roundups and brand reviews for the past four years. She graduated with a degree in journalism from SUNY Oswego in 2019 and...