The Science of Pain Relief Gels: Ingredients and Formulations Explained

Australia, with its active and outdoor-oriented lifestyle, often sees its residents dealing with aching muscles. Whether it’s from participating in sports, enjoying nature hikes, or simply leading an active life, aching muscles are a common occurrence for many Australians. According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, 71.1 per cent of individuals aged above 18 experienced body aches from 2020 to 2021. 

Hence, buying a pain relief gel in Australia is an excellent option. After all, it has become a popular go-to remedy for individuals seeking quick and targeted relief from various aches. Whether it’s a sore muscle after an intense workout, a nagging joint ache, or a minor injury, it offers a convenient and non-invasive way to manage discomfort. However, what sets it apart is the science behind its formulation, carefully combining active ingredients to provide effective relief. This article explores the key ingredients and formulations that make the gels so effective.

Key Ingredients 

  • Menthol: One of the most common ingredients is menthol. Derived from mint oils, menthol produces a cooling sensation on the skin. 
  • Camphor: Camphor is another popular ingredient because it can produce a warming sensation when applied topically. Like menthol, it helps to promote a sense of relief. 
  • Salicylates: Salicylates are compounds related to aspirin and have anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to the skin, they help reduce inflammation in the affected area, alleviating aches associated with conditions like arthritis and muscle strains.
  • Capsaicin: Capsaicin is the active component in chilli peppers responsible for their heat. It acts as a potent analgesic by depleting substance P, a neurotransmitter involved in transmitting pain signals. Though it may cause a temporary burning sensation upon application, capsaicin has shown effectiveness in the long term.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Some contain NSAIDs like ibuprofen or diclofenac. These drugs work by inhibiting the prostaglandins production, which are inflammatory mediators. By reducing inflammation, NSAIDs help manage aches caused by various conditions, including sprains, strains, and osteoarthritis.
  • Arnica: Arnica is a herbal extract derived from the Arnica montana plant. It has been traditionally used for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It is believed to enhance the overall pain-relieving effect.


The effectiveness depends not only on the individual ingredients but also on their precise combination and formulation. Manufacturers carefully engineer these gels to optimise the delivery of active ingredients and enhance their absorption into the skin. Some common formulations include:

  • Water-Based: It is lightweight and non-greasy, quickly absorbing into the skin. It is ideal for providing cooling relief for muscle soreness and minor aches.
  • Cream-Based: It has a thicker consistency, providing a gentle warming effect. It is suitable for relieving stiffness as well as chronic conditions like arthritis.
  • Gel-Patch Formulations: Gel-patch formulations combine the benefits of a gel with the convenience of a patch. These are particularly useful for targeted relief, as they can be applied to the affected area directly and left in place for extended periods.
  • Liposomal: It utilises liposomes, small lipid-based vesicles, to improve the delivery of active ingredients through the skin’s barriers. This technology allows for deeper penetration and longer-lasting relief.
  • Natural and Herbal Formulations: Some focus on natural and herbal ingredients, catering to individuals who prefer a more holistic approach to pain management. These formulations may include essential oils and plant extracts with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.


A pain relief gel in Australia is a result of scientific advancement and provides a deep understanding of how specific ingredients interact with the body to alleviate discomfort. By leveraging transdermal drug delivery and combining critical active ingredients, it offers targeted and effective relief for a range of conditions. Whether you’re an athlete recovering from intense physical activity or someone dealing with chronic pain, understanding the science behind it empowers you to make informed decisions about the products that best suit your needs, ultimately helping you lead a more comfortable life.