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Topical Agents

In Phoenix Arizona

At Atlas Pain Specialists we work with patients to help alleviate pain with the help of Topical Agents. We try to find the right solutions on a patient-to-patient basis.
What Are Topical Agents


Topical painkillers (those you apply to your skin) may offer relief when your joints or muscles are painful. You can find many different over-the-counter products for topical pain relief at your local drugstore. These are, however, are milder in strength and there are prescription-strength topical agents available that can be prescribed by your doctor.
What We Do:
Topical painkillers or analgesics are rubbed on, sprayed on, or can be applied as patches onto your skin over your painful muscles or joints. The goal is to bring pain relief and help patients manage their pain.
therapist applying topical agent ointment cream on female knee injured at the gym

Benefits of 
Using Topical Agents For Pain Management

Precise Targeting

One great benefit of using topical agents is they are much more precise than just orally taking pain medication. They are applied directly over the painful joint or muscles and produce localized pain relieving results. Compared to oral medication, which are absorbed through your digestive and circulatory systems, topical agents only affect specific body parts and not your bod as a whole.

Fast Pain Relief

Topical agents generally react faster than oral medication because oral medication needs to be absorbed via your circulatory system, while topical pain relievers are absorbed by your skin.  For example, if you apply it to a joint that is close to your skin's surface like your elbows or knees the topical agent is absorbed relatively faster than oral medication.

Safer For Your Internal Organs

Topical pain relievers are utilized transdermally which prevents the negative side effects that come with taking oral pain medication. Oral pain medication can cause negative side effects in your digestive system, liver, kidneys, and stomach. Also, topical treatments reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems and gastric distress that long term oral medication may bring.

Reduces Your Risk of Drug Tolerance

When taking medications for pain over an extended period of time your body develops a tolerance which then reduces the effectiveness of the drug. Instead of increasing the oral dosage (which can grow increasingly harmful for your body) using topical pain relievers can be a better alternative.





Why Do People Take Analgesics?

Analgesics may be used to ease soreness and reduce inflammation. They are often used to treat a variety of conditions, from post-surgical pain to the aches and pains of everyday life.

  • Post-surgical pain
    Analgesics can help reduce inflammation and swelling at the site of the incision and promote healing. This can help to reduce the amount of pain felt by the patient and help them to recover quickly. Analgesics can be taken orally or applied topically as a cream or ointment.
  • Injuries such as a fractured bone
    Analgesics can be used to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with the broken bone. A combination of medications is typically used to treat the injury, including anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and muscle relaxants. For more severe fractures, surgery may be necessary to set the bones correctly. In these cases, analgesics can be used to reduce the pain and make the recovery process easier.
  • Acute pain such as a twisted ankle or headache
    Topical Agents can provide relief for a limited amount of time. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are two of the most commonly used analgesics for these types of conditions. However, they should only be taken as directed and in the lowest possible dose to reduce the risk of side effects.
  • Chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and back pain
    For these conditions, stronger medications may be prescribed such as opioids, muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory drugs. It is important to note that opioids should only be taken as prescribed and in the lowest possible dose to reduce the risk of addiction and other side effects. 

Analgesics are essential for relieving pain and inflammation associated with various medical conditions. It is important to speak with a healthcare provider to ensure that the right medication is taken in the right amount to reduce the risk of side effects. With the right treatment, these medications can provide relief and help patients to recover quickly.

Ingredients & Mechanism of Topical Agents

When it comes to managing pain, it can be difficult to know where to start. Over-the-counter topical pain medications are a safe, effective, and accessible way to provide relief. But what types of ingredients are used to make these medications?

The active ingredients in over-the-counter topical pain medications can vary, but the most commonly used ingredients are capsaicin, salicylates, counterirritants, and anesthetics.

  • Capsaicin
    It is derived from chili peppers, and is one of the most commonly used active ingredients in over-the-counter topical pain medications. It works by depleting the nerve cells of a chemical important for sending pain messages. Examples of products that contain capsaicin include Capzasin and Zostrix. It may take up to two weeks to feel relief from capsaicin, and it is most effective if used several times a day.
  • Salicylates
    These are another type of active ingredient found in over-the-counter topical pain medications. These products contain the same pain-relieving substance found in aspirin; examples include Aspercreme and Bengay.
  • Counterirritants (such as menthol and camphor)
    These are also commonly used in over-the-counter topical medications. These substances produce a hot or cold sensation that temporarily overrides your ability to feel your arthritis pain. Products that contain counterirritants include Icy Hot and Biofreeze.
  • Topical anesthetics such as lidocaine
    These are also used in over-the-counter topical pain medications. With lidocaine, pain is numbed so that it can be relieved. Examples of products that contain lidocaine include LidoPatch and Topicaine.

Although these topical analgesics provide relief from pain, they do not address the underlying cause of the pain and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you are experiencing persistent pain, it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.


How Do These Painkillers Work?

Analgesics are drugs used to relieve pain. There are two major categories of analgesics, anti-inflammatory analgesics and opioids. Both are important for managing pain and should be used appropriately to maximize efficacy with minimal side effects.

Anti-inflammatory analgesics work by reducing inflammation and swelling at the site of the pain. Examples include:

  • Acetaminophen: works by blocking the release of certain chemicals in the body that cause pain and inflammation.
  • Aspirin: works by inhibiting the body's production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals released by the body in response to injury.
  • COX inhibitors: block the enzyme cyclooxygenase, which is responsible for the production of prostaglandins.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): are effective at reducing inflammation and pain.

Opioids, also known as narcotics, work by affecting the brain’s perception of pain. These drugs can be either natural or manmade, and include:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Meperidine
  • Methadone
  • Naloxone or naltrexone
  • Oxycodone

Opioids are powerful medications and should be used with caution, as they can be highly addictive and can have serious side effects.

When using analgesics, it is important to follow the dosage and instructions provided by your doctor. If you are unsure about the correct dosage or have any questions about the medications, talk to your healthcare provider. Analgesics can be effective at managing pain, but it is important to use them correctly and responsibly to ensure your safety and that of your loved ones.

Are They Safe to Use?

Capsaicin creams can result in a burning or stinging sensation, however this feeling typically diminishes after a few weeks of regular application. Ensure to clean your hands thoroughly after every use and abstain from touching your eyes and mucous membranes.

To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, if you are sensitive to aspirin or using blood thinners, consult your doctor prior to applying any salicylate-containing topical medications. Additionally, please be aware of the potential toxicity associated with overuse.

Lastly, do not apply topical pain relievers to broken, inflamed, or irritated skin or with a heating pad or bandage.

old man dressed in olive pit colour t-shirt and grey pants seated on a couch holding knee in pain. He is at a chronic pain specialist office.
Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is a common problem that can cause significant physical and emotional distress. When you have chronic pain, you may experience pain every day, even after the original injury or illness has healed. This can be difficult to cope with, both physically and emotionally. Approximately 25% of people with chronic pain will develop chronic pain syndrome (CPS), which is characterized by symptoms beyond pain, like depression and anxiety. This can make it difficult to live your life normally.
Chronic Pain Treatments
lady with blonde hair in a dark blue blouse holding her neck in pain
Neck Pain
The neck (or cervical spine) is a coordinated network of nerves, bones, joints, and muscles. It has the important job of providing protection and mobility to the brain, but often it can become painful. There are a number of conditions that cause pain in the neck. Inflammation along nerve pathways in the spine can be responsible for shoulder, head, arm, and/or hand pain. Additionally, inflammation of the spinal cord may cause pain in the legs and other areas of the body. In a few days or weeks, neck pain usually goes away, but pain that lasts for months may signify an underlying medical cause that needs to be addressed. In such cases, early intervention may be necessary for the best results.
Neck Pain Treatments
topical medical pain reliever agent in a yellow tube

Types of Topical Pain Relievers

Here are some of the different types of topical agents that are used for pain management.
Topical salicylates
Topical opioids
Topical counterirritants
Topical capsaicinoids
Topical anesthetics
Other topical NSAIDs
Topical steroids
Opioid Statement
Atlas Pain Specialists has a policy regarding the prescribing of controlled substances. Each patient will be evaluated on an individualized basis and some may not be a candidate for chronic opiate therapy.

In order to protect your health, patients are monitored closely for possible addiction, abuse, and diversion. This monitoring may include follow-up office visits, urine drug screening, and the sharing of medical records between your physicians and your pharmacies.

Atlas Pain Specialists reserves the right to determine if we will take over the prescribing of controlled substances from other providers on a case by case basis.

Patients should not expect to receive a prescription for a controlled substance at your first visit.
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