How Do Pain Relief Patches Work? The Science Behind Transdermal Patches

Release time:2023-11-13    Click:144

Pain relief patches have become a popular option for managing both acute and chronic pain. But how exactly do these transdermal patches work to deliver pain medication through the skin? Here we'll explore the science behind pain relief patches and how they can effectively treat pain.

What are Transdermal Drug Delivery Systems?

Transdermal drug delivery systems, including patches, provide a controlled release of medication through the skin and into the bloodstream. The medicine is embedded in a thin matrix that adheres to the skin's surface and allows absorption over some time. 

Advantages of Transdermal Delivery

Transdermal patches provide key advantages over oral medication:

- Avoids gastrointestinal absorption issues 

- Steady absorption over long periods

- Pain Management at the Site

- Pain management with a lower dosage

- Reduced side effects 

Localized patches can provide effective pain relief right at the source, such as joint or muscle pain. This enhances treatment where it's needed most.

How Do Ingredients Penetrate the Skin? 

For the ingredients in a pain relief patch to take effect, they must penetrate through the outer layers of skin into the blood vessels underneath. Different methods facilitate this process:

Passive Diffusion

Smaller molecules can passively diffuse through the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of skin. The medicine moves from an area of high concentration (the patch) to a low concentration (the body).

Permeation Enhancers

Substances like isopropyl myristate help increase skin permeability and absorption rates. They interact with skin proteins to open spaces between cells.


A small electric current drives charged medication molecules into the skin. The current is applied directly to the patch.


Ultrasound waves create temporary openings in the skin's molecular structure, allowing passage of larger molecules.

Delivering Effective Pain Relief 

When used properly, pain relief patches can deliver potent medication for both acute and chronic pain. The steady transdermal absorption avoids peak highs and lows of oral medication. Patches typically provide pain relief for up to 3 days.