Does Menthol Work For Joint Pain?

Joint pain creams have become relatively popular in recent years, with menthol and capscaicin standing out as two of the most popular natural ingredients. Whilst one provides a cooling effect and the other a warming, both have been shown to reduce joint pain.  

We conducted a detailed meta analysis on 22 studies that looked at menthol creams in relation to joint pain, and after removing papers with poor methodology we were left with 8 studies. Out of these 8 studies, 7 showed positive results and one showed no noticeable impact from methol cream. 

In general it's safe to say that it is effective, the one common thread however, was that the relief was relatively mild, although it does definitely work. We'll include the studies and summaries below.

How Menthol Soothes Joint Pain?

Menthol is a compound derived from peppermint oil and can be extracted naturally from plants or produced synthetically. It is widely used in various topical products due to its cooling and refreshing properties. When applied to the skin, menthol creates a cooling sensation that can help distract from underlying pain and reduce discomfort. It acts as a counterirritant, providing temporary relief by stimulating the nerve endings on the skin surface, which can help alleviate joint pain and muscle soreness.

While menthol can provide relief for minor pain, it is important to note that it does not treat the underlying causes of pain or inflammation. It is best used for temporary relief and to enhance comfort during activities that would otherwise be uncomfortable.

Breakdown of Menthol Cream Studies for Joint Pain

A study by Topp et al. (2013) looked at the effects of topical menthol gel on functioning and knee pain. Twenty individuals with knee OA participated in the study, undergoing two data collection visits one week apart. The participants performed functional tasks, including the 6-Minute Walk (6-MW), Timed Get Up and Go (TUG), 30-second timed chair stand (TCS), and ascending and descending stairs. Knee pain was self-reported using a visual analog scale.

The study results showed significant improvements in the performance of functional tasks and reductions in pain following the application of menthol gel. Scores on the 6-MW, TCS, and descending stairs task improved significantly after the menthol gel application. Additionally, the menthol intervention resulted in significant pain reduction during the TUG, TCS, ascending stairs, and descending stairs tasks. Overall, this study provides partial support for the efficacy of menthol gel in improving functioning and reducing pain among individuals with knee OA.

Another often cited study by Kraemer et al. (2005) explored the effects of a cetylated fatty acid topical cream with menthol on pain relief and functional performance in individuals with arthritis. Although this study did not exclusively focus on knee OA, it provides valuable insights into the potential benefits of menthol in managing joint pain. The findings indicated that the topical cream with menthol resulted in pain reduction and improved functional mobility and quality of life in arthritis patients.

More Studies on Menthol for Joint Pain

Side Effects of Menthol Cream

While menthol is generally considered safe for topical use, it can cause certain side effects in some individuals. Common side effects may include redness, warmth, or mild irritation at the application site. These effects are usually mild and temporary. However, if these side effects persist or worsen, it is advisable to seek medical attention.

In rare cases, individuals may experience more severe reactions to menthol, such as blistering, swelling, or increased pain at the application site. If any of these serious side effects occur, discontinue use immediately and consult a healthcare provider.

Does Menthol Cream Work For Pain?

Menthol can provide temporary relief from joint pain and muscle soreness when used as directed. Its cooling and counterirritant properties make it a popular choice for individuals seeking non-invasive pain relief options.

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