Voltaren Gel (diclofenac, 1%) is an FDA-approved over-the-counter topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for temporary relief of osteoarthritis pain in the joints of hands, knees, and feet. An alternative formulation (3% diclofenac gel) is another FDA-approved prescription drug used to treat actinic keratosis (a skin disorder).
If you are at risk for cardiac events and stroke, you should not take this medication.
If an allergic reaction occurs, stop using it immediately.
Besides the groups at increased risk listed in the black box warnings, Voltaren Gel should not be used by:
The systemic absorption of Voltaren Gel is three times less than oral diclofenac (5% vs. 15%, respectively). That means the risk of serious gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects that are associated with oral NSAIDs are considerably less with the topical formulation.
A report co-written by Abrams in 2017 on medical benefits of cannabis found that while there was evidence that cannabis, or marijuana, can relieve pain in humans, there wasn’t any good research that looked specifically at CBD. “We need to see firm evidence that using it has benefits and is safe,” he says.
But research has shown that opioids should generally not be used to treat OA; the potential harms outweigh the benefits.
And even non-opioid medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), pose risks. “That’s why we often prefer to use nondrug therapies as the first-line option,” Ring says.
But these need to be prescribed with caution for anyone who already has heart disease, high blood pressure, or other risk factors.
And depending on which state you live in, CBD products might not be legal or regulated, so you might not be getting what you pay for.
If you have the dull ache of a tension headache—the most common type—once or twice a month, you can treat it with an OTC pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Exercise or relaxation can help, too.
“Many older adults may be taking opioids unnecessarily,” says David Ring, M.D., Ph.D., professor of surgery and psychiatry at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
To help you choose the best muscle rub for your next post-run self-care session, we’ve rounded up our favorites below.
Much like ice baths and compression socks, using a muscle rub as part of post-run recovery has more than just anecdotal benefits. According to a 2019 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, using a topical analgesic like arnica can reduce the intensity of muscle soreness in the 72 hours after a run. Other creams and rubs have also been shown to reduce recovery time, due to the homeopathic contributions of menthol, magnesium, aloe, and more. And then there’s CBD, a cannabis compound newer to the market, which shows promise as an anti-inflammatory, according to studies. In some cases the benefits have been characterized as simply perceptive—but is there a reason to discount some placebo effect, as long as you’re in less pain?
Show your body some love with one of these natural anti-inflammatory creams and gels.
How We Tested
Feeling sore after a hard run—particularly when the pain sets in days later, as in the case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—is common for even the most experienced runners. It’s a bad-good feeling that combines the thrill of accomplishment with the humility of having to lower yourself slowly into a chair. There are lots of time-tested ways to quiet the pain, like ice baths, massage, and the oddly satisfying torture of foam-rolling. All of these can be helpful for reducing swelling and tissue breakdown—particularly when combined with a good muscle rub.
Every product here has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers, and use our own experience with these muscle rubs to determine the best options. Most of our selections have been tested by our staff, and those that haven’t have been carefully chosen based on their active ingredients, effectiveness, comforting qualities, and value. Here are our picks for trying to soothe your muscles and speed up recovery.