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By Deni Hui, The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy

Curist delivers FDA-approved allergy medicines to your door at half the price of traditional brands. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time.

Lidocaine patch is a topical analgesic transdermal patch widely used for temporary pain relief. It is not only effective, but also easy and convenient to use! There are different types of lidocaine patches available, some requiring a prescription or doctor visit while some can simply be purchased over the counter. Continue reading to learn more about the differences and similarities between prescription and over the counter lidocaine patches.

Are Prescription Lidocaine Patches (Lidoderm) Better Than Over-The-Counter Patches (Salonpas or Lidocaine 4% patches)?

Lidoderm, which is lidocaine patch 5%, is a prescription medication used to reduce itching and pain from certain skin conditions (such as insect bites, minor skin irritations, scrapes). Lidoderm can also be used to relieve nerve pain after shingles (postherpetic neuralgia). 

Salonpas, which is lidocaine patch 4%, contains the maximum strength of lidocaine (4%) available over the counter without a prescription. It is used to provide temporary relief of minor aches and pain associated with back, neck, shoulders, knees and elbows.

Depending on the type, location, and severity of your pain, you may find one to work better than the other. For example, if you are experiencing minor localized pain, topical pain relievers such as Salonpas or lidocaine 4% patches are recommended first-line pain treatment based on CDC guidelines. These patches work locally and directly at the site of action to provide you rapid pain relief. Lidocaine 4% patches are also less expensive and available without a prescription. 

If you are experiencing nerve pain after shingles, consult with your healthcare provider first as they may prescribe you with Lidoderm (lidocaine patch 5%) to help relieve your nerve pain. Lidoderm may be the best option in this case, but it requires a doctor’s prescription and can be more expensive than lidocaine 4% patches. If you are unsure, consult your healthcare provider first who can help select the best patch for you based on your symptoms, medical condition(s), and other medicines you take that may interact with lidocaine.

What is the Difference between Salonpas vs Lidocaine 4% Patches?

Lidocaine is the name of the medicine in Salonpas Patches. To relieve pain, you can buy Salonpas or a product like Curist (available here at about half the price of Salonpas). Both Salonpas and Curist Lidocaine Patch 4% have the same strength of lidocaine (4%), which is the maximum strength available over the counter, so the relief for minor aches and pain is the same, but Curist Lidocaine Patch 4% is significantly less expensive

Which Patch is Better: Lidoderm or Salonpas or Lidocaine 4% Patches?

The answer is it depends on the type, location, and severity of your pain. If you are experiencing localized pain in areas of your shoulders, neck, arms, or legs, Salonpas or other lidocaine 4% patches are effective topical pain relievers. However, if you are experiencing pain that is related to swelling or inflammation, like arthritis, lidocaine patches may not be the best option for you. NSAIDs, like ibuprofen or naproxen, may work better in these circumstances. 

If you are experiencing any signs of nerve pain, consult with your healthcare provider first as they may prescribe you with Lidoderm (lidocaine patch 5%) to help relieve your nerve pain. However, if you are unsure, always consult your healthcare provider first who can help select the best patch for you based on your symptoms, medical condition(s), and other medicines you take that may interact with lidocaine.

Does Lidocaine Patch Contain Latex?

Some studies have shown that lidocaine transdermal patches use natural rubber latex as a major component of the patch base. If you have a true latex allergy, consult with your healthcare provider first prior to using lidocaine patches. Curist Lidocaine Patch 4% does not contain latex.

Typically, it is common to have skin reactions, such as blisters, bruising, burning, irritation, reddening of skin, where a lidocaine patch is put on during or right after treatment. However, a very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. If you ever experience signs of an allergic reaction, like rash, hives, trouble breathing, or swelling of mouth, face, lips, seek medical attention right away.

Is Lidoderm and Lidocaine the Same Thing?

Lidoderm is the brand name for lidocaine patch 5%. It is a prescription-only topical local anesthetic that contains 5% lidocaine. Lidocaine is the active ingredient in Lidoderm. When applied topically, lidocaine numbs the skin and reduces the sensation of pain. It does this by blocking nerve conduction under the skin, thereby producing the numbing sensation that lidocaine patches are used for.

What is the Difference between Lidocaine 4% and Lidoderm patches?

Lidoderm (lidocaine 5% patch) is a prescription medicine, used under the supervision of a doctor, and therefore can be used to treat nerve pain caused by shingles (postherpetic neuralgia) that require a diagnosis and supervision by your doctor. Lidocaine 4% patch, on the other hand, contains the maximum strength lidocaine available over the counter and it is designed to provide temporary relief of minor aches and pains to your shoulders, arms, neck and legs. 

Both lidocaine 4% and 5% patches contain the same medicine, lidocaine, which relieves pain by numbing your nerves and making them less sensitive to pain.

Is Lidoderm a Controlled Substance?

Lidoderm, which is lidocaine 5% patch, is not a controlled substance but Lidoderm does require a prescription. Lidocaine itself is not a controlled substance and it belongs to a class of medications called local anesthetics. Lidocaine blocks sodium ions from entering nerve cells which are necessary for nerve conduction and for the sensation of pain. This produces the numbing sensation that lidocaine patches are used for. 

Keep in mind that a prescription is needed to obtain the Lidoderm (lidocaine 5% patch) while lidocaine 4% patches are now readily available over the counter (e.g. here at Curist).

Can I sleep with Lidoderm or Salonpas on?

Yes, both Lidoderm and Salonpas are safe for night-time use. You can sleep with a lidocaine patch on but no more than 12 hours. It is typically recommended to use a heating pad for 15 minutes prior to bedtime, then apply the topical lidocaine patch (Lidoderm or Salonpas) before you go to bed and leave it on for a maximum of 12 hours.

Why is Lidoderm So Expensive?

Lidoderm is the brand name for lidocaine patch 5%. Without insurance, it can be very expensive (about $828) to pay for a Lidoderm prescription. Though in recent years, lidocaine patch 5% which is the generic version of Lidoderm has been launched and most are now covered by insurance plans. Lidocaine 4% patches, while slightly less strong, are available without a prescription and are significantly less expensive than Lidoderm.

What is the Best OTC Lidocaine Patch?

The strongest lidocaine patch available on the market over-the-counter is lidocaine 4%. Strengths above 4% require a doctor visit and prescription. Curist Lidocaine Patch Maximum Strength contains lidocaine 4%, which is the strongest OTC lidocaine patch available.

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This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.