Health Tips: Relief from Arthritis Pain

For those suffering from osteoarthritis of the knees or hands, applying topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the form of creams, gels, or patches can bring weeks of pain relief, finds a new review by The Cochrane Library.

While oral NSAIDs like Tylenol and ibuprofen are more common for managing musculoskeletal pain, reviewers examined the effectiveness of the topical variety. While they have been widely used for years in some parts of the world, topical NSAIDs have been slow to become popular in the US.

Reviewers found the topical Diclofenac was as effective as oral NSAIDs for arthritis in the knee or hand and it gave more participants good pain relief. Lead reviewer Sheena Derry, PhD, explained that the use of topical formulations is limited to conditions where the pain is “near to the surface.”

“The benefit of topical over oral NSAIDs is that with topical, the drug stays close to the site of application, so levels in blood and more remote tissues remain very low,” said Derry. “This means you don’t get the gastrointestinal problems that are associated with and cause so many problems with oral NSAIDs.”