Over The Counter Pain Relief, by Pat Cascio

I’m not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be. This article covers some of the Over The Counter (OTC) pain relief medications that I’ve used and continue to use. I’m not giving medical advice, just my opinions on this subject.

I live in pain – all the time – and I’m sure many of our readers can appreciate where I’m coming from on this subject. For at least 60 years, I lived in pain from my right hip. It was x-rayed dozens of times over the years, and every doctor said the same thing “osteo-arthritis” and nothing more could be done – just take some OTC pain medications. Well, I finally saw an orthopedic surgeon about four years ago, and within 30-seconds he spotted the problem with my right hip. Yeah, osteo-arthritis, but in my case it was caused by a misshaped femur bone – from birth. I used to be very active in all kinds of sports, and always thought that the pain was just from over-doing things – nothing more. I had the right hip replaced, and it is the only part of my body these days that works as it should, and is pain-free, as well – well worth the $22,000 surgery.

I have osteo-arthritis in my lower back, as well as my hands, the right hand is much worse than the left and is now deformed – fingers are turning sideways and misshaped as well – and painful – not a good thing for someone who does a lot of typing on a daily basis. Osteo-arthritis is caused, or so I’m informed, by wear and tear in the joints – makes sense. And, there is no such thing as a “cure” for this ailment, only some various types of treatments. Treatments are usually in the form of some kind of pain pills to one degree or another, and of course OTC spray-on, or rub-in creams and lotions. However, everything is only temporary, and the pain comes back in short order.

Don’t Over-Medicate!

In this article, I’ll cover some of the OTC creams and sprays I use, and continue to use. I’m a firm believer in not taking any more medications than needed. I suffer from Diabetes Type 2, as well as high blood pressure, so I’m limited to some oral pain meds. One of the worse offenders for me is, Aleve, as it is known to raise blood pressure. So I rarely take it – and at best, it just barely, on some days, takes the edge off of my pain. Plus, for some reason, my body “leaks” liver enzymes – not very much, but it shows a little elevation when I have blood work done. And, this is a real sore spot for me, when a nurse tells me to cut back on my drinking. I don’t drink alcohol – took my last drink August 17, 1977 – period! Doctors have told me that the enzyme leak isn’t anything to be concerned about. Any sort of NSAID (look it up) also raises my blood pressure, so they too are used very rarely.

I have a prescription for a couple “narcotic” pain meds, and once again, I rarely take them – just don’t like taking meds for the most part, and once again, they rarely do much for my pain – just take the edge off, so I can function. One of the best things is an oral Prednisone, and there is a process when taking this medication over a period of a week or so…one drawback is that Prednisone, tends to destroy muscle, and I don’t need that in my old age, either.

Some OTC Alternatives

On to the spray-on and rub-in OTC pain medications that I use. Plain old Aspercreme does nothing for my pain – period. Their new spray-on type has a 4% mixture of Lidocaine in it, and this stuff works almost immediately when sprayed on the affected area. In my case it the lower back and my left shoulder. However, the pain relief is only temporary – lasting an hour or two – sometimes a little longer, and must be reapplied – but I rarely do that – I don’t want too much of anything in my body – even spray-on meds.

IcyHot – They have two types, one is a spray-on and it goes on dry – almost dries immediately, but once again, the pain relief is temporary – a couple of hours, and the pain returns. IcyHot has a rub-in lotion that has 4% Lidocaine and this works great – but once again, only lasts a couple hours.

I’ve used a spray called “Pain Stop” for many years, and this one is one of the less expensive sprays, but like all the rest, the pain-relieving effects only last a few hours at best, and needs to be reapplied, and each time it is reapplied, the pain-relieving effects diminish.

I used to use something called Flexall 454 – and it is no longer made, for some reason, and it was the absolute best rub-on/in cream for pain – lasted longer than anything else. Now, they sell Flexall Plus, and this one is also long-lasting. One of the drawbacks is, the smell from the Menthol, stays with you all day long, and you will get “looks” from other people when they come close to you – wondering why you smell, the way you do. Many of the OTC pain meds contain Menthol to one degree or another. However, the Flexall literally stays with you all day and all night long – I don’t ever apply it at night – don’t want to chase my wife out of the bedroom from the aroma that it puts out.

A new product on the market, and I’m sure you’ve all seen the television commercials for it, and it’s called Voltaren, and is advertised for arthritis pain. You’ve got to understand that there are a number of different types of arthritis out there, and some have very good treatments, that you can get with a ‘script from your doctor. However, there is no “treatment” per se with osteo-arthritis, other than pain relief. Voltaren works differently than most OTC paid meds, in that, it doesn’t work immediately. It is applied 1-3 times per day, over a 7 day period, before it is claimed to take effect. But in my case, it did nothing for my pain.

My wife sells Avon products in her spare time, and ordered something called HeXashield – another cream for muscle, back and joint pain. It has a lot of Menthol in it – but like all the other OTC stuff, it has a very short period of time, before you have to reapply it again and again.

I’ve Tried Many…

I can’t begin to list all the other OTC pain creams and sprays I’ve tried, as well as some of the “patches” that you stick onto the effective areas for pain relief – one problem is, you can’t put this stuff on your hands, and a lot of my daily pain is in both hands. I’ve tried some other creams and gels, given to me by Chiropractors, and like everything else, the pain relief is short-lived.


As I stated at the start of this article, I simply live in pain – every single day – some days, the pain is tolerable, and I don’t take or apply anything. Other days, the pain is just horrible, and I’ll try “this” or “that” on that particular day – and sometimes, I can get rid of some of the pain. The best thing is the oral Prednisone, but I’m extremely careful about using this medication.

Pain Has Limited Me

I gave up teaching firearm and martial arts classes some years ago, because of the lower back pain. It is really bad if I stand-up for more than a few minutes. In my gun articles, I sometimes have some volunteer shooters assisting me in my shooting – usually no problem finding someone to shoot guns, when the ammo is free…LOL! However, over the past year, because of the COVID-19 virus, I steer clear of just about anyone except my wife and oldest daughter.

So, depending on the type or causes of your pain, you might want to try some of the aforementioned spray-on and rub-in pain medications. Just be advised, that they are only a temporary solution. And, your pain might be caused by something else, and you’ll want to see your doctor for further study and investigation. Please don’t put this off!

If you know that your pain is caused by a particular issue, like a hard day at work, lifting and moving heavy boxes, then one of the pain meds that I’ve mentioned might be all you need. If you sustained an injury, like I did with a torn rotator cuff, and I put it off for more than a year, then you’ll surely want to see your doctor. In my case, it required surgery to repair the tear – not a good or fun thing, to be sure – and expensive. Sometimes, you might just “turn” the wrong way and pinch a nerve or pull a muscle, if that is the case, one of the above pain meds might be all you need and to rest the affected area.

In my case, I keep a good supply of many of the aforementioned meds and other creams, lotions, and spray-on pain meds for the times we are living in, considering the shortages we are experiencing these days. Yep, I’m a Prepper, and proud of it!

Once again, I’m not giving anyone any medical advice, just relating my own experiences and what works and what doesn’t work for me.