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There may be something in the idea that rubbing a painful area might actually help. We rub the skin over a painful area almost instinctively. Touch applied at particular frequency can be pleasant. And while there is research that shows that it might help, it is a big jump to demonstrate that rubbing alone is a useful treatment for pain if that pain is moderate or severe.

But what about rubbing something on to a painful area – a cream or a gel? There are all sorts of these. Some aim to cool, some to produce a sense of heat, some contain drugs like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or capsaicin, an extract of chilli. Some are for acute pain, some for chronic, some you can buy over the counter from the chemist, and others need a prescription. Any large pharmacy has a bewildering array of products. How do you choose? Are any better than just rubbing?

Read the full article on The Conversation website, written by Andrew Moore, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. 

Oxford is a subscribing member of The ConversationFind out how you can write for The Conversation.

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