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Take a Closer Look at Topical Joint Pain Relief

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Topical analgesics are currently not entirely understood. Studies are underway to further examine their effects, as well as how well they work compared to other pain relievers. Topical joint pain relievers can be found in a variety of forms, such as creams, sprays, patches or gels. You simply rub it into the skin over the joint that hurts, and it acts fairly quickly. It is most effective if applied on joints that are near the surface of the skin, such as knee and hand joints. There are three basic active ingredients in topical analgesics. Capsaicin, which lessens the cells required to send pain signals, Salicylates, which is a pain relieving substance, and counterirritants like menthol, to temporarily override your ability to feel chronic pains, combine to create an anti-inflammatory preparation.

Topical Joint Pain Relief-Does It Work?

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There are differing opinions on how well topical gel work on joint pain. There are many who use them and claim that the product helps to reduce their musculoskeletal pains. However, scientific research has revealed only some minor benefits. It is thought that it works in a placebo-like effect, as something as simple as rubbing something that is intended to correct the pain can trick your mind. Regardless of why, it does work for many people. Some patients have found it suits them better than Tylenol because they target inflammation, a root cause in pain, stiffness and swelling of the joint. When ingested orally, NSAIDs are absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract before being propelled through the blood stream towards the source of the pain. While it does make it to the site of pain, the drug is also taken to a variety of other places, and can cause upset stomach, bleeding or ulcers. Topical NSAIDs focus the medication into the pained area, so more of it goes straight to easing the pain.

Recent Studies

One team of reviewers systematically reviewed 34 case studies pertaining to 3,688 adults suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain for 3 months. They were organized into groups: the topical NSAID group, the placebo group and the oral NSAID group. It was found that the topical NSAID, Diclofenac, was as effective as the oral NSAIDs for arthritis of the hands or knees, and granted the participants better pain relief than the placebo group. A second review that covered 14 double blind, placebo controlled trials granted information from roughly 1,500 patients who reported significant pain relief from the topical NSAIDs than from the placebo.

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Many of the possible side effects are uncommon and mild at their worst, though there are some to be knowledgeable of in certain circumstances. Capsaicin creams can cause your flesh to burn or sting, but generally this effect goes away after prolonged use. Speak with your health care professional if you are taking blood thinners or are allergic to aspirin before using relievers that have salicylates as an ingredient. You should not apply these types of products to broken or irritated skin, nor combine it with a heating pad. This can result in burns. Generally, it can also result in redness, itching and other skin irritants. Often, those side effects stem from an allergy to the material the gel is made from. Pharmacists are actually able to create a topical gel with safer ingredients for your skin.

Be smart before purchasing a topical ointment to remedy joint pain. Make sure you read the packaging to be fully aware of what is inside it, as well as how you should apply it. Do not use it in conjunction with a tight bandage. If you get it in your eyes, wash your eyes out as thoroughly and quickly as possible.

There is plenty of supporting evidence that claims that topical analgesics are effective for anti-inflammatory purposes, at the very least in association with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and other rheumatic diseases that cause chronic joint pain. With the mild side effects, and the knowledge of what to look for in an effective topical joint pain relief cream, it would not hurt to give them a shot to see how they suit your needs. Some people find they work even better than medications or other types of available treatments. It is important to check with your physician before making a full decision.

Sheena Derry, R Andrew Moore, Roy Rabbie. Topical NSAIDs for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012, Issue 9 DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007400.pub2
Moore RA, Tramer MR, Carroll D, Wiffen PJ, McQuay HJ: Quantitative systematic review of topically applied non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.BMJ 1998, 316:333-338