How do topical medications relieve foot pain?

Christopher Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Topical pain medications are available in lotion, cream, or gel form. They are spread on the skin and penetrate inward to relieve some forms of mild foot pain. Some topical preparations -- such as those containing menthol, eucalyptus oil, or turpentine oil -- reduce pain by distracting the nerves with a different type of sensation. Another group delivers salicylates (the same ingredient as in aspirin) through the skin. A third group contains a chemical known as substance P, which is a neurotransmitter that appears to transmit pain signals to the brain. These creams contain a derivative of a natural ingredient found in cayenne pepper. For that reason, they may burn or sting when first applied.

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