I would try both, depending on the area that needs relief from pain. Transdermal patches are designed to deliver compounds to the bloodstream, which will contribute to a more widespread (whole-body/systemic) effect. Topical creams, ointments, rubs, and sprays are aimed towards more localized pain relief. It is difficult to apply a transdermal patch to the knuckles or fingers, while a cream would be much more appropriate. For hip, back, shoulder or leg pain, a transdermal patch might be better, and the effects would last for many hours and would also spread out from the site of the patch.