Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Pain-relieving creams ease arthritis aches

Women seeking relief from osteoarthritis pain don't necessarily need to pop pills to get the benefits of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). A new Cochrane review of studies finds that some NSAID gels or creams can relieve arthritis aches as well as their oral counterparts, with less risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. The authors looked at 34 studies, including a total of 7,688 participants, that compared a topical NSAID with an inactive placebo cream or oral NSAID over a period of two months or more. The best evidence was for diclofenac solution or gel, which reduced knee and hand osteoarthritis pain by at least 50% compared with placebo cream, and was just as effective as an oral NSAID. Most side effects from the topical NSAIDs were mild, including redness, itching, and other skin irritation.

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