Topical Anti Inflammatory Cream as Effective as Pill for OA

Is it the topical anti inflammatory cream that is really benefiting you?

Is it the topical anti inflammatory cream that is really benefiting you?

A new study has shown using a topical anti inflammatory cream is as effective as taking the pill version for osteoarthritis. This is very good news for all us OA sufferers as using it topically means it will not give the stomach problems taking it orally has. After all these drugs however they are taken are not curing the wear and tear they are only giving symptomatic relief. Therefore we will be taking them for a long time.

This study has been reported in a number of places but News Medical explains this study on topical anti inflammatory cream really well:

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

While oral NSAIDs are more common for managing musculoskeletal pain, reviewers wanted to examine the effectiveness of the topical variety for managing pain for longer than 8 weeks. 

They explain the study

A team of reviewers evaluated 34 studies involving 7,688 adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain for a period of at least 3 months. Participants were organized into groups using either a topical NSAID applied at least once daily, such as diclofenac, ketoprofen, indomethacin, and ibuprofen; a placebo; or an oral NSAID.

The outcome was

The reviewers found the topical NSAID diclofenac was as effective as oral NSAIDs for arthritis in the knee or hand and it gave more participants good pain relief compared to the placebo in studies lasting 8-12 weeks. In four studies, for example, diclofenac gave 60 percent of participants’ pain relief over 8-12 weeks compared to 50 percent of those in the placebo group.

Click on this link to learn about treatment guidelines that suggest using topical anti inflammatory cream over  pills.

Is it Necessary to Use a Topical Anti Inflammatory Cream At All?

The really interesting part of all this to me is that 60% got pain relief with the NSAID cream but 50%got better with the placebo. So there is 10% difference between them.

If It Is Not The Topical Anti Inflammatory Cream What is Causing the Improvement?

Quite simply I believe it is the effect of massaging the cream into the area. Massage has been shown to be highly effective in treating OA but it appears it makes little difference what you do the massage with!

So what would happen if these people were taught how to give themselves effective, therapeutic massage? I suspect they would see even greater improvement!

You can read more about massage and why it helps here. I suspect baby oil or even cooking oil would work just as well but I personally I use a natural massage oil as I like the smell and the texture! and I don’t like using a topical anti inflammatory cream as NSAIDs have been shown in studies to reduce healing when used in the long term.


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