What are counterirritation ointments?

Counterirritation is the pain-relieving effect achieved by causing less severe pain to counter more intense pain. Counterirritant ointments are applied to the skin over painful joints to produce a mild local inflammatory reaction and sensations of heat or cold. This may relieve the deeper-seated joint pain. Active ingredients may include aromatic oils such as menthol, peppermint, clove, and camphor oils. There is little evidence on the effectiveness of counterirritant preparations.

Counterirritant ointments are available over the counter. An example is Tiger Balm. Counterirritants should not be used with other topical ointments or creams or on open wounds. Some people may be hypersensitive to one or more of the ingredients.

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