Harnessing the Therapeutic Potential of Capsaicin for Pain Relief

December 27, 2021

Since its discovery in the 19th century, the therapeutic roles of capsaicin have been widely demonstrated.   If you suffer from joint pain caused by arthritis, your physician may have recommended a capsaicin patch or cream.  Capsaicin is the substance found in chili, cayenne and jalapeno peppers that gives their hot taste.  The potential applications of capsaicin range from food flavorings to therapeutics. 

The applause for capsaicin continues to grow stronger; in fact, the substance played a starring role in the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their use of capsaicin resulting in the “discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.”

Capsaicin is an ingredient in many OTC topical pain relief medicines which include patches, creams, gels, lotions and sticks.  When applied to the skin, capsaicin products create a warm tingling sensation which can provide immediate, temporary relief from the pain caused by arthritis.

Dr. Samuel Pegram, a noted rheumatologist based in Austin, Texas, recommends capsaicin products for patients with arthritis including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.   “Capsaicin used on the body causes a sensation of heat that activates certain nerve cells and is a safe and effective topical treatment for arthritis,” says Dr. Pegram.  “The patches are ideal for the neck and back and capsaicin is a recommended treatment option for arthritis patients who cannot tolerate or are reluctant to use oral medications.”

Dr. Samuel Pegram is leading rheumatologist

“Avoid using capsaicin products before working out or taking a shower as any areas of skin with capsaicin on it can feel a greater burning sensation when they come into contact with hot water,” says Dr. Pegram.  “Never use capsaicin on infected or broken skin and wash your hands thoroughly after use as accidental exposure to your eyes or nose could cause excessive burning.”

“When used consistently, capsaicin provides longer lasting benefits by blocking a chemical in the body called substance P, which sends pain signals to the brain,” says Dr. Pegram.  “That’s why it is important to try out capsaicin for at least two weeks to get that benefit.”

The topical use of capsaicin topical is recommended for the temporary relief of muscle or joint pain caused by strains, sprains, arthritis, bruising, or backaches. Capsaicin topical is also used to treat nerve pain (neuralgia) in people who have had herpes zoster, or “shingles.”

“I like capsaicin’s warming relief that penetrates my minor aches and pains,” says Barby Ingle, President, International Pain Foundation (iPain), reality TV personality and chronic pain sufferer. 

“A welcome alternative for people who avoid taking pills, like me, is topical analgesic pain relief that includes both capsaicin and menthol– as found in Salonpas® Pain Relieving Gel-Patch HOT and the pure capsaicin found in Salonpas-HOT.  When I’m in pain, I smooth a patch over the area where I need relief, and it sticks there, warming and soothing the pain away.”

Salonpas® HOT releases capsaicin, a natural, odor free pain reliever, for long lasting pain relief up to eight hours.  “With all the opioid and prescription NSAID issues our country is facing, it is more important than ever to identify safer options to treat pain,” says John Incledon, President & CEO, Hisamitsu America. “In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has identified topical analgesics as a first line option, in lieu of oral systemic analgesics and opioids, and specifically mention Capsaicin as one of the potential active ingredients.”