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Relieving Joint Pain

Relieving Joint Pain

Drugs often used to relieve arthritic joint pain [and therefore often used by people with diabetes] are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs for short. Ibuprofen is just one example common example of this type of drug. They come in tablet form and also in creams, gels, foams and sprays and these are referred to as topical NSAIDs because they are applied to the skin surface.

According to Health Which in 1998 the prescriptions for topical NSAIDs cost the NHS nearly £20million and there is an additional use because this figure does not include those bought over the counter. The sister journal, Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin [1999;37:87-88] looked at how effective topical NSAIDs are in relieving chronic arthritic joint pain. Their results produced a recommendation that topical NSAIDs should not be prescribed on the NHS for the following reasons:

  • There was little reliable evidence about where the products go in the body after they are put on the skin.
  • It is not known how well topical NSAIDs work when used in the long term or how likely they are to cause serious side effects because of absorption into the body.
  • What evidence is available suggests that they might be slightly better than a placebo [dummy] preparation at relieving joint pain.
  • There is no reliable evidence that they are more effective than standard treatments for joint pain, such as paracetamol or NSAIDs taken by mouth or other topical preparations called rubefacients that work by irritating the skin over the painful area.

We are we using preparations that are easily available to us over the counter and the NHS is paying a high price for those given on prescription. But they are not proven to be effective and even worse there is no science to say that they are safe for long term use.