Once you hit the big 3-0, instead of stopping on the way home for your favorite treat, you pull up in the drug store parking lot and look for your favorite topical pain cream. You know it’s true!

Unlike many other professions, rehab professionals move, stretch, transfer and strength train with patients all day. When not working with patients, we are bent over at a desk doing endless charting.

Topical NSAID creams are becoming a popular trend, mostly because of the multiple safety issues with PO NSAIDs (cue stomach, cardiac and renal issues). I often wonder how many people are ruining their bodies with these meds… Anyway…

So do these creams work? Personally, yes… But what does Sensei Cochrane say?

Cochrane’s voice is loud with 61 studies, over 8,000 folks, and considered to be high quality. Topical diclofenac and ketoprofen were the best, considering 8 out of 10 with an acute strain or sprain had much reduced pain after a week. This was compared to placebo, so the placebo trick was no good here. There were no side effects. 

So, yeah. Time to change the paradigm to at least start with topical NSAIDs before pushing the pills. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed the best benefit when topicals are used on a scheduled basis rather than prn.

What should you take from all of this? The next time someone close to you turns 30… Forget the gift card to the mall, and get one for the drug store… lol