Over-the-counter topical treatment options for arthritis pain include those that rely on capsaicin, salicylates and counterirritants as their main active ingredients, as Mayo Clinic explains. Prescription topical treatments include lidocaine patches and creams, including the anti-inflammatory diclofenac.
Topical arthritis treatments work best on pain in the knees and hands, where joints are near the skin. Capzasin and Zostrix creams include capsaicin, which removes from nerves a chemical important for transmitting pain. Salicylates such as Aspercreme and Bengay are essentially topical forms of aspirin. Counterirritants such as Icy Hot distract the body from the arthritis pain. While many people insist the over-the-counter products work to treat arthritis pain, studies show they typically provide only modest pain relief, according to Mayo Clinic.