Researchers say gels, creams and sprays containing painkillers such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and piroxicam are safe and effective treatments for local pain.
Cochrane Researchers say that topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are more effective than placebos for treating short-term pain and have few side effects. They are also considered to be less risky than oral drugs of the same type because they are rubbed into the skin and therefore do not reach high concentrations in the blood.
3,455 participants were involved in the study were given either topical NSAIDs or placebos, typically to treat short-term pain caused by sprains, strains or sports injuries. NSAIDs were successful at reducing pain by 50% or more in over six out of ten cases, compared to four out of ten for placebos. Topical diclofenac, ibuprofen, ketoprofen and piroxicam seemed to provide the best results.
"Our study confirms that some NSAIDs are effective topical treatments for acute pain of the type caused by a sports injury," said lead researcher Andrew Moore, of the Pain Research and Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics at the University of Oxford in Oxford, UK.
"The fact that there were only mild side effects in a few patients and no serious adverse events suggests that these are generally very safe treatments and could be particularly useful for treating pain in people who don't cope well with oral NSAIDs," he added.