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Best Muscle Rubs Reviewed & Rated for Quality

last updated Jul 11, 2019

You’ve been out running, at the gym or simply have had a long and stressful day at work, and your muscles are simply screaming at you for some form of relief. You could go for a massage, but with the limited time you have until your next task, you need quick relief. What do you do? What can lower the pain to tolerable levels without risking running behind schedule in today’s rush to get things done? How about a good muscle rub? Topical ointments are a great way to help with muscle and joint pain at least temporarily, so you can move on with your day, but you want to make sure you get the right one. This top ten will be covering the best products available in this line.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 12 hrs of research

icon
 Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
99.2/100 our score
Value
99.5
Effectiveness
99
Potency
99.2
Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Why is it better?

Minimal Scent

Affordable

Works well

Non-Habit Forming

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
 Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Test Winner: Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
19
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
13k
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
12
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
50
Products Evaluated
Sorting Options
Value Effectiveness Potency By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
99.2
Value
99.5 %
Effectiveness
99 %
Potency
99.2 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$18.98
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.8
Value
98.3 %
Effectiveness
97.2 %
Potency
98 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$42.67
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.4
Value
96.2 %
Effectiveness
97 %
Potency
96 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$11.57
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.7
Value
94.2 %
Effectiveness
95 %
Potency
94.8 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$7.00
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.1
Value
92.4 %
Effectiveness
91 %
Potency
92.8 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$15.95
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.9
Value
89.6 %
Effectiveness
88.2 %
Potency
89 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$22.24
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.8
Value
86.3 %
Effectiveness
85.2 %
Potency
86 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$12.40
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.6
Value
86.5 %
Effectiveness
85 %
Potency
85.4 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$14.99
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84
Value
84.3 %
Effectiveness
84 %
Potency
83.6 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$29.99
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.1
Value
81.5 %
Effectiveness
80 %
Potency
81.7 %
Price Comparison Last Updated (14.07.19)
Amazon Link
$14.99
In Depth Review Top 10
  •  Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
  •  doTerra Deep Blue doTerra Deep Blue
  •  Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel
  •  Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength
  •  Ultra Strength Bengay Cream Ultra Strength Bengay Cream
  •  Cramer Atomic Balm Cramer Atomic Balm
  •  Merry Hempsters Merry Hempsters
  •  Dr Pat's Ultra Freeze Dr Pat's Ultra Freeze
  •  Miracle of Aloe Miracle of Aloe
  •  Instant Pain Relief Gel by SNÖ Instant Pain Relief Gel by SNÖ
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Best Muscle Rubs

1. Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
99.2
 Penetrex Pain Relief Therapy
Amazon Link
Value
99.5
Effectiveness
99
Potency
99.2
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$18.98
Pros:

Minimal Scent

Affordable

Works well

Non-Habit Forming

Cons:

May not work well on nerve pain

Most of us though we won’t point fingers, have reached a point in our lives where we are forced to live with some form of pain or inflammation. The product below has found a way to help you deal with that in an interesting and not smelly way.

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Little Scent
Most of the creams or ointments that fall onto this list have that typical medicinal smell that we all love. You know that one where you walk into a room and think, “What is that did you bathe in camphor?”. Well, that isn’t the case here. Penetrex has managed to come up with a formula that not only works but doesn’t completely repel your loved ones.

Money Back Guarantee
A lot of companies offer a version of this but Penetrex got it right. At any point, after purchasing this product if you are not happy with it you can contact the manufacturer and they will issue a full refund. No time limit no shipping cost nothing. If that isn’t a great incentive, we don’t know what it.

Cost and Value
This one is well worth the money. It works well, it doesn’t chase people away due to odor and it’s not expensive. If you include the money back guarantee that comes from the company this one is so good, we were tempted to get more just so we could hand it out to people we met on the street.

2. doTerra Deep Blue

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
97.8
 doTerra Deep Blue
Amazon Link
Value
98.3
Effectiveness
97.2
Potency
98
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$42.67
Pros:

Essential Oils

Not greasy

Leaves skin soft

Cons:

Cost

As topical creams go this one is pretty potent. We appreciate something that works, and you can feel this one as soon as it hits your skin. For those of us that are slightly insane and like working out this was a real savior the day after when you have that muscle burn going on.

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Essential Oils
There is always a laundry list of ingredients in emollients like this, but we were pleased that we recognized most of the ones listed on the bottle. If you are at all sensitive to mind you may want to find one slightly less mentholated but other than that we were happy with the way it left our skin soft and not greasy.

Can use on feet
You should know that it’s never a good idea to use something like this on damaged skin or an area that won’t get air. This rub worked really well. We would apply it before we worked out on those arches and ankles then again once we were done. It managed to keep the usual suffering to a bare minimum which was lovely

Cost and Value
We found this one to be a bit on the higher end price wise. At least as far as the amount you get for the cost. They do say it is returnable but still, we tend to go towards a slightly larger quantity. If you prefer a more natural product it does have that in its favor and it did get the job done. You just may want to be sure you are getting the right one before doling out the cash.

3. Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
96.4
 Biofreeze Pain Relief Gel
Amazon Link
Value
96.2
Effectiveness
97
Potency
96
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$11.57
Pros:

No Animal Testing

Made in the USA

Non-addictive

Well-known Brand

Cons:

Can only be shipped in the USA

Anyone who has experienced physical therapy has probably seen a bottle of this sitting out somewhere. There are a couple of different versions but this one was a favorite with the more delicate skinned among us. Taking the differences into account we added this one below.

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Name Brand
Biofreeze is a name that has been around for 25 years. It’s trusted by doctors and consumers alike and you can’t deny it works. We also found that although other products often claim similar results even looking the same, they did not live up to the name.

No animal Testing
More and more in today’s society consumers are concerned with the ethical testing practices used by manufacturers. We were happy to see that Biofreeze as a company does not use any animal testing in the research of their products. That means we don’t have to worry about any form of animal cruelty and that is always a good thing.

Cost and Value
Biofreeze as a company has various forms of their product to choose from. This specific one has a slightly lower level of menthol which is probably why it was more popular with the people who had less severe pain level. For the money, you can’t beat it though and it doesn’t take much to get the job done. No residue and a long-lasting cooling sensation mean you don’t need to constantly reapply and that means saving money.

4. Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.7
 Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength
Amazon Link
Value
94.2
Effectiveness
95
Potency
94.8
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$7.00
Pros:

Minimal Ingredients

A tried and true formula

Small amount so less waste

Cons:

Hard to find in the US

Cost for quantity

Most of us have spent the better portion of our lives hearing one rumor or another about some foreign product or another that is some big secret or impossible to get. Well, we heard those stories as well and we decided to hunt one down. As soon as we saw the packaging we couldn’t wait to see what would happen.

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Ingredients
Unlike some other brands, this one only has 6 ingredients. That was quite a switch considering what you usually find in anything that is going in or on the body. Camphor was the largest ingredient which comes from the camphor laurel. This is a large evergreen found throughout Asia and is used in a lot of various medicines for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Portion
We found a lot of these ointments to come in fairly large amounts, which is great if you need it. Sometimes though we witnessed people would use them unnecessarily because it was there. This comes in a smaller amount 30grams. It may not seem like much, but it packs quite a wallop and we used far less of it to cover the same area as some other types.

Cost and Value
This one was a tad on the strong side for most of us. While it does its job, it is very strong both in scent and in sensation. You only get a small bottle which has plenty of product considering how you're supposed to use it, but for the price, we think there might be a better one out there. If you are looking for something that packs a punch you won’t find better, however, be ready to spend some money if you aren’t sparing in your application.

5. Ultra Strength Bengay Cream

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.1
 Ultra Strength Bengay Cream
Amazon Link
Value
92.4
Effectiveness
91
Potency
92.8
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$15.95
Pros:

Cost

Non-greasy

Quantity

Portability

Cons:

Scent

Eye and mucus irritant

Good ole Bengay. We remember commercials of this from our childhood and the minty medicated aroma when we would sit on grandpops knee. This is another one of those products we remember thinking of as children and being glad we didn’t need to use it. Times have apparently changed without telling us.

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Non-Greasy
We can’t stress enough how nice it is to find a product that doesn’t require anti-traction once it’s applied. So many of the formulas that are camphor-based end up with a slick almost oily consistency once it is applied and mixes with your body temperature. Bengay cream, however, manages to be absorbed into the skin without leaving behind that icky residue.

Oil of Wintergreen
One of the reasons this product does such a good job is because it has methyl salicylate. This is wintergreen oil and has similar effects in the body as aspirin and other analgesics or pain relievers. While it does produce quite the minty fragrance we found it worth it for the warming sensation that soothed over our sore joints almost as soon as this was applied.

Cost and Value
While this is one of the most cost-effective creams out there that doesn’t make it right for every consumer. It’s a well-known brand and people have trusted it for a long time which is comforting. We found that scent we remembered from childhood hadn’t lessened any though and it even can cling to your clothing so be careful how you use it. Overall it does do a decent job and scent aside it’s very affordable. Not the worst way to spend your money for a little pain relief.

6. Cramer Atomic Balm

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.9
 Cramer Atomic Balm
Amazon Link
Value
89.6
Effectiveness
88.2
Potency
89
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$22.24
Pros:

Value vs Price

Warming sensation

Great for warming up muscles pre-workout

Different heat levels available

Cons:

Orange color can stain clothing

This one was interesting. Some of our people used this brand years ago and remember it being like a warm tingling sensation while others describe it more in the category of molten lava. We guess it all comes down to your tolerance of certain ingredients but read below to see the end results.

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It actually heats up
Some of the products we tried stated they would help by warming up the muscles or joints it was applied to. Cramer made a product that actually does it. While most of the analgesics we tried did help with the pain they didn’t do much in the way of warmth. This one was the exception. Some used it prior to a workout and stated that they could really feel a difference in their warm-up, others used it after and enjoyed the tingling and heat to help them relax. Either way, it seems to provide what you need if you are looking for hot instead of cool.

Different heat levels
We were pleased to discover that there are several levels of heat available to choose from. The main ingredient that caused this was chili pepper though so if your sensitive to that kind of thing you may want to look elsewhere. Overall this was a good product and whatever level of warmth your looking for is was a nice change to be able to find the appropriate one for each consumer.

Cost and Value
Considering most of the ointments came in grams or ounces this one coming in a 1-pound container was a real steal. It’s on the lower price end of the scale and the larger when you are looking at measurement so if you enjoy the warming effect it is great. It only has 2 ingredients which was also nice since they were easy to look up and helped us understand how this works the way it does. We don’t suggest using this if you are wearing a light color since it has a bit of orange tint to it but when at the gym or working out we couldn’t have been happier. Well worth the price of admission.

7. Merry Hempsters

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.8
 Merry Hempsters
Amazon Link
Value
86.3
Effectiveness
85.2
Potency
86
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$12.40
Pros:

Vegan

Made in the USA

Comes in 2 pack

Cost

Cons:

Not as powerful as some others

This one is unique in that it comes as a stick instead of the typical cream or gel. It took a bit to get used to applying it without using our hands to rub in but we eventually got the hang of it. If you enjoy the idea of an all-natural product to assist in your pain relief then this may be what you are after.

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Vegan
Almost anything the standard consumer uses to help with pain relief will have some chemical or component that steps outside the range of all natural. Merry Hempsters not only avoids those chemicals but everything in their stick is certified vegan. That means if you’ve been struggling to find a remedy that doesn’t have the typical chemicals and medications this is what you are looking for. We were impressed it still worked and it made the eco friendlies so happy.

Cassia
Cassia is the name of a specific type of cinnamon. It isn’t the mild expensive version used in the high-end restaurants but then again it isn’t meant to be. It is safe to use and is commonly used in various ways as an anti-inflammatory all over the world. The use of it in this product allows them to keep the price reasonable despite its vegan title, which was very nice for us.

Cost and Value
This comes in a two pack with the option to have a heating and a cooling stick included. Some like it hot and some like it cold, we don’t judge. Considering you get two in the pack the cost is overall minimal and we appreciate a company taking the time to figure out a vegan way to accomplish something like this.oferall the cost is low and the obvious benefits from the product were worth the effort of looking it up for you.

8. Dr Pat's Ultra Freeze

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.6
 Dr Pat's Ultra Freeze
Amazon Link
Value
86.5
Effectiveness
85
Potency
85.4
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$14.99
Pros:

Cools overactive nerves

Longer active life

100% money back guarantee

Large amount for the cost

Cons:

Better for muscles and nerves than joints

For those of us out there that prefer a nice cooling sensation, we found something that does the trick. This not only assists with a wide variety of painful issues it comes in a groovy blue color as well. I mean why use a white cream when you can use something that not only feels like ice but looks like the blue from a glacier.

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Made in the USA
While we don’t keep a product off our list because it isn’t made in the United States it is always nice when we find one that is. With the way things are happening with international relations, we were happy to see that by buying this product we were able to support an in-country business. Sometimes it is the small things that can make a difference and we know the consumers reading this will appreciate the fact that is the product is made here and is supporting their fellow Americans.

Long Lasting
We found that the majority of the analgesic agents we listed had an average actual in effect time of only about ten minutes. This embrocation, however, starts to work almost immediately and lasted an average of thirty minutes even during activity. That’s great if you plan on being up and moving around after application. You won’t have to worry about sweating it off immediately, a nice way to save on buying replacement ointment.

Cost and Value
This one is one of the largest available when it comes to the amount of product in a single container. The cost is low mid but when you take the size you receive and the small amount necessary it really is more than worth the price. This did a great job of chilling out the nerve pain and keeping it at a bearable level for a longer period than some other products out there. The company also offers a 100% risk-free money back guarantee. They are so sure this will get the job done they won’t even ask questions if you are not happy. Altogether this is one of our favorites when it comes to value.

9. Miracle of Aloe

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
84
 Miracle of Aloe
Amazon Link
Value
84.3
Effectiveness
84
Potency
83.6
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$29.99
Pros:

Made from aloe

Cost-effective

Money back Guarantee

Cons:

Minty smell

While there are some emollients on our list that are nice on the skin very few can potentially improve it. There are several reasons this is potentially not only a pain reliever but a skin soother and that can be almost as important depending on what you are treating. Check out the rest of what we found out below.

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42% Aloe
Most people when they hear the word aloe associate it with sunburn or face cream, but it has many more uses. The pulp from aloe is 99% water meaning it is excellent when it comes to moisturizing. This is what makes it so useful as a topical ingredient and why it has been used as a dermatological cure-all for centuries where it is native. Having it as the main ingredient in this type of unguent means it is not only helping with the pain under the skin but helping with the dryness that injuries can cause on the outer dermis due to scraping, scratching and nerve irritation. Organically grown and harvested the high concentration of aloe can really be a skin saver.

90-day 100% money back guarantee
Miracle of Aloe is a company that believes strongly in the ability of their product. The fact is that the founder decided back in 1981 to make the policy that if you are not happy with the product for any reason within the first 90 days of buying it they would refund your money. That policy has never changed, and we were thoroughly impressed that they have decided to stand behind their original idea. So few companies do this anymore and we think that shows the right qualities.

Cost and Value
The price for this cream runs in the middle compared to some of the others, however, you are getting six to eight times the amount that some of the others offer so the cost is well worth it to us. Like all of these you need to pay attention to the directions and not treat it like normal skin cream, but as long as you do that you should be in the clear as far as any form of reaction. Non-greasy, easy to dispense and high-quality ingredient combined with minimal cost to make this one of our top choices for help with pain relief.

10. Instant Pain Relief Gel by SNÖ

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
81.1
 Instant Pain Relief Gel by SNÖ
Amazon Link
Value
81.5
Effectiveness
80
Potency
81.7
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$14.99
Pros:

3 unique options

Minimal smell

Easy to use container

No mess

100% satisfaction guarantee

Cons:

Only made in Sweden

Just the name of this one brought cool icy relief to mind when we read the packaging. Knowing it came from Sweden further enhanced our mental feast as we pictured how it was possibly made. If you have been suffering from pain, tightness, or generalized discomfort due to injury or overactivity. While none of the products we listed are a miracle cure for a chronic condition, this one will certainly help makes things easier and more comfortable for you.

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3 unique Formulas
SNÖ has come up with 3 versions of this ointment allowing you to pick the correct one to assist with whatever you are attempting to correct. The relief Gel provides a cryothermic cooling sensation that is best when used to help with spasms and pains. Cramps are something else this comes in useful for and it worked great on our leg cramps that had been known to wake us during the night.

100% Money back guarantee
This is another company that offers you one of those lovely guarantees we look for. If you are not 100% satisfied with the product they offer you a full refund no questions asked. We know a lot of companies off versions of this but when we find the actual guarantee we think it is worth taking note.

Cost and Value
At number ten on our list, this gel falls right in the middle of the cost category. It offers a slightly more than standard measurement of the product in an easy to dispense container which was very nice. We didn’t have to stick out hands into anything to be able to use it. We also didn’t feel like we were wasting money by getting so much that it would expire before we had the chance to use it all. Having the various options as far as the product and what they do was also a nice change of pace and we would have no issue getting them all to use depending on what the circumstance was at the time. All in all, this is a high-quality product with a decent price tag and a great company backing it.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Value

The value for such ointments is both hard and easy to judge. When you consider that each one is meant to give a different effect, and therefore it will also have different ingredients, then you might have a harder time judging its value overall to different people. That being said, we based our top ten on the way the product was seen by many different people who were all using similar products, and all decided on the one we chose as the best of its particular type.

The duration, how well it worked and what it is meant to be used for are also taken into consideration as well as how often people have been badly affected who did not have a negative effect with similar products. When we finally added all of the information we had up and found the products that stood out more than most, we chose to put them on our list. The cost may be greater on some, but more often than not it is due to the contents and how well it works when used properly, so we can assure you that what you pay is well worth every cent.

We cannot stress enough, however, that all of these products are to be treated as a form of medication, and so not all of them may be good for you. Do the research before purchasing any of them for use, and even ask the available pharmacist what their advice is. Especially since many use a menthol or aspirin type base and might cause allergic reactions.

Effectiveness

We wanted to make sure that the ointments we chose would give you a good amount of temporary relief, and so we made sure each of them will work for you under the proper circumstances, to help you get through your day. Do not expect them to last all day, nor to relieve your pain constantly. If your muscles or joints seem to require constant (daily) application of the rub, you may want to seek a physician and not just another rub. They are also usually meant to be applied in small amounts, and not large areas due to their contents.

Potency

Some people have allergies to common ingredients of most muscle rubs, so we did try to vary which types we listed. As always, we want to make sure that our top ten are the best over a larger group and not just a small number. Ingredients play a key part to rubs and other over the counter use medical supplies, and so should play an important role both in our choices and yours. This top ten is a suggested list of the best we could find, and we hope there is one among them that fits both what you need and what you can use.

Aspirin, Menthol based products, and eucalyptus seem to be common ingredients among most of these rubs. A few use aloe and other ingredients intended to soothe in order to lower the level of other stronger medicines. Reading the label is important, and we felt that taking into consideration alternative ingredients was an important element to this top ten.

Expert Interviews & Opinions

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expert tips icon
These products do not replace going to the doctors

Muscle rubs are not intended to be used as a  replacement to see a doctor over an injured (sprained/strained) muscle, joint or ligament. If you think you may have been injured, then you should see a doctor and not rely on an ointment of any kind. When a person has sustained an injury, using any over-the-counter remedy can actually be detrimental to recovery. Always seek medical aid on a possible injury before you take or apply anything.

What not to do

These products should not be used with wraps, and following the instructions given on each is excessively important. Since most of these have some level of aspirin or an aspirin-like ingredient in them, using them in combination with other pain-relieving drugs is not recommended and could cause an overdose. Overall, these products can be used and have no ill effects if used properly, but the fact that the side effects can be severe means we want to make sure you as a buyer understand what is on the list.

If you have allergies be sure to look to read the ingredients label.

Many of these ointments can contain aspirin and other ingredients that are not suitable for everyone to use. Instructions are also a high priority because these rubs are chemicals, whether or not they are thought of in such a fashion, and chemicals can cause harm no matter what their original intention.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: Are these safe to use?

a:

Yes, if used correctly they can provide relief when you need it most. They can be a great thing to have in your cabinet after a long day at work.

q: Do all rubs have a cooling/heating effect?

a:

No, but most do. The contents of the rub are what cause the effects. For instance, a mentholated rub is likely to be the one to cause a cooling effect. For more information on the ingredients and types, check our sources out.

q: Can I use one of these with a heating pad or ice pack?

a:

No. You should never use an ointment intended for topical pain relief with any heating device or cooling device/object. This can cause a severe chemical reaction with the ingredients. See our sources for more information.

q: Can I take a pain reliever when using one of these products?

a:

As with any form of medication, never combine the rubs with another type without consulting either a pharmacist, a doctor, or preferably both. Reactions can occur that could be devastating to your health.