Lidocaine vs. Menthol – Better for Muscle & Back Pain?

When your muscles feel on fire and your back twinges with every twist, there’s no shortage of products on the shelves promising sweet relief. But not all offer the same caliber of ingredients and potency, nor do they offer the same type of relief. 

To help you make educated decisions on which topical products may best serve your needs, we’ll compare two popular ingredients: lidocaine vs. menthol. Here, we explore the differing relief both can offer muscles and back pain, as well as explain common 

Get to Know Lidocaine

Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that works by blocking signals to your nerves and causing a numbing effect when applied to the skin. Anesthetics are known as desensitizing agents that can “mute” pain signals traveling from your muscles or nerves to your brain. 

Lidocaine is highly effective for targeted pain relief, blocking the pain signals to your brain at the sight of application. With very few side effects, lidocaine can be applied to the back wherever there is soreness, but keep in mind it is not safe to use on damaged skin, including infections or cuts. 

When lidocaine is applied to the skin for pain relief, it is known as a topical analgesic. With creams, gels, patches, and sprays readily available over the counter, lidocaine is an accessible back pain reliever for many people. Many studies have shown that lidocaine can be used as an alternative to prescription medications for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and osteoarthritis of superficial joints.

To summarize, lidocaine is a fantastic choice for individuals seeking swift relief for muscles or sore backs. However, its numbing results can fade as soon as half an hour (or extend to a few hours), making it ideal to combine with ingredients that provide more prolonged results. 

Get to Know Menthol 

Menthol is derived from peppermint oil extract and creates a cooling sensation when applied to the skin, making it ideal for soothing pain and inflammation. Found in various over-the-counter forms like patches, creams, and sprays, menthol is a counterirritant that acts on the cold receptors in the sensory nerves of your skin. 

Counterirritants such as menthol cause a temporary hot or cold sensation when applied topically, distracting the brain from your back pain and other sore muscles. Topical menthol is extensive, from muscle and joint pain relief, bruising, and insect bites to muscle strains and relieving cramps. 

In addition to the cooling sensation that desensitizes nerve endings, menthol also reduces skin and intramuscular temperature like with the application if an ice pack, but with longer-lasting effects. Important chemical components in menthol can dilate blood vessels, causing a decrease in inflammation and improvement in circulation, while helping to expedite the healing process.

The natural ingredients in menthol are typically safe and have a few minor side effects, but it does come with a very strong odor. What’s more, while menthol delivers a pleasant cooling feeling to the area almost immediately, it does fade quicker than many other natural topical ingredients, lidocaine included. 

Back Pain - Lidocaine or Menthol?

Let’s Compare the Two

Lidocaine and menthol are both used to help relieve pain, but they work in different ways. If you compare lidocaine and menthol to relieve back pain, lidocaine will provide the more powerful results. 

When applied topically, lidocaine acts as an anesthetic, blocking the signals between your nerves and brain, causing a numbing effect. Menthol is a counterirritant, which causes a cooling sensation on your skin that distracts your brain from the pain or discomfort you are feeling. 

Studies display that lidocaine is more potent for chronic back pain, offering more relief than menthol alone. However, topical menthol is often combined with other products and used as a permeability enhancer to increase the absorption of other topical medications, such as lidocaine or camphor.

This leads us to our next point—you don’t have to choose lidocaine or menthol when confronting back pain. Products from Botanika Life not only balance the two but also combine them with other natural pain-combatting agents for lasting results. 

For example, Botanika Life combines lidocaine, menthol, arnica, and full-spectrum CBD in the Ultra-Relief Muscle Pain Rub. The lidocaine and menthol address the pain within seconds to provide relief, while the CBD takes longer to kick in. However, CBD can help combat inflammation in the lower back and provide longer-lasting alleviation. To learn more about how muscle balms can benefit your wellness, click here.

Muscle Pain - Lidocaine or Menthol?

Muscle pain can be caused by various things such as injuries, exercise, infections, and even certain diseases. Whether your muscle pain is short-term or chronic, there are a variety of temporary solutions to which you can turn. 

Choosing the best product for muscle pain relief depends on your pain's location, type, and intensity. For a muscle strain or minor sprain, a topical counterirritant like menthol may provide relief. 

However, when it comes to lidocaine vs. menthol in terms of which is better for overall muscle pain relief, there is more substantial evidence suggesting that lidocaine is a better option than menthol if you must choose one over the other. This is especially true for chronic pain conditions. 

Lidocaine and menthol work best when they are paired together. Menthol increases the permeability, or absorption, of other medications, enhancing all the optimal benefits. 

Combining both of these powerful ingredients into one product, like the Super Soothing Pain Serum by Botanika Life, can offer near-instant pain relief. As an all-natural option, this cream includes 1,000 mg of full-spectrum CBD with menthol and lidocaine, making it the perfect fix for sore, aching muscles. 

Other Effective Topical Pain Relief Ingredients to Know


CBD is a natural plant-based chemical derived from the hemp plant. With anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant properties, CBD works with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS regulates many bodily functions, such as sleep, pain control, inflammation, and immune responses. CBD is non-psychoactive and will not cause a “high” feeling. 

Applying CBD topically to sore muscles or irritated nerves allows the chemical components to inhibit the release of neurotransmitters that normally cause muscle rigidity and spasms

When your body is out of balance, the endocannabinoid system works harder to help your body return to its homeostatic state. This is the case when you have an injury, muscle spasm, or strain. Adding topical CBD to the mix can immediately help your body regain balance.

What does this mean for your back and muscle pain? This means that the healing properties of CBD may not only relieve pain but can also reduce inflammation at the source. Combine CBD with menthol and lidocaine, and you’ll have a golden ticket. 


Arnica is an herb from the sunflower family that has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s. This centuries-old natural remedy containing anti-inflammatory compounds can relieve muscle and joint pain. The benefits of Arnica are attributed to its chemical components, with a demonstrated ability to cause anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antioxidant effects.

Known for reducing swelling and decreasing pain, the active chemicals in Arnica are also known to have natural antibiotic effects, which can help heal wounds. With over 150 bioactive components, Arnica is often used for bruising and pain post-injury or surgery. It can ease muscle aches and soreness, making it an ideal natural back pain reliever. 

Although topical Arnica is very safe to use, ingesting Arnica in large amounts can be toxic.


Aloe gel is well known for its sunburn and wound healing properties, but it can also help reduce pain and inflammation. The active components in aloe vera stimulate skin growth and reparation, making it useful in muscle repair, especially when combined with other pain-relieving products. 

With many medicinal compounds, it is not surprising that aloe can also deliver pain-relieving benefits. 

Researchers have discovered that aloe vera also has analgesic properties that can reduce neuropathic pain. This can also assist in muscle and back pain since the nervous system involves messages sent between various body parts, all of which affect each other.  

Get to Know Botanika Life’s Pain Collection


Botanika Life pain relief products combine full-spectrum CBD oil extracted from organically grown hemp with plant-based ingredients like arnica, lidocaine, and menthol to penetrate and alleviate pain at the source. What’s more, third-party labs test all Botanika Life’s products to ensure that they’re free from pesticides, chemicals, and other junks you wouldn’t want to put into your body. Explore the many wellness solutions we offer online to find the preferred delivery method of lidocaine and menthol to your back and muscles. 


By Emily Wegener

With a unique background as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Masters Degree in Teaching and experience in Psychology, Emily spends much of her time researching and trying out new holistic healing modalities.