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Topical pain relieving creams are effective, study finds

A review conducted by Cochrane Researchers has shown that gels, creams and sprays that contain painkilling agents including ibuprofen, diclofenac, ketopfofen and piroxicam are safe to apply and are effective at relieving localized pain.

The research concluded that these non-steroidal anti-inflammatory topical drugs (NSAIDs) are more effective than placebos at relieving short-term localized pain with minimal side effects. Because these pain relievers are applied to the skin they pose less risk than their oral counterparts do because they do not reach high concentrations in the blood.

To conduct the study, 3,455 participants took part in 31 studies where they were either given a topical NSAIDs or a placebo to treat sprains, strains or sports injuries. The researchers found that the NSAIDs had reduced the pain by 50 percent or more in six out of ten cases, while the placebos only did so for four out of ten cases.

Although it was not possible to distinguish with exact certainty, diclofenac, ibuprofen, ketoprofen and piroxicam seemed to provide the best results.

Lead researcher, Andrew Moore, of the Pain Research and Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at the University of Oxford, UK, said, "Our study confirms that some NSAIDs are effective topical treatments for acute pain of the type caused by a sports injury. "New formulations of topical NSAIDs are becoming available. We know relatively little about how these new formulations of drugs compare with older formulations, and this is an area that future research might address."

Very few side effects occured within the study, and were not very different in number as they were with the placebos. Since no serious adverse reactions were experienced by any of the participants, these topical pain relievers are a great alternative for people who don't cope well with oral NSAIDs, Moore added.

Materials for this article were acquired from Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 6, via EurekaAlert!

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