Topical Pain Relievers
Topical analgesics have a favorable safety profile and there is increasing evidence of their efficacy for a variety of pain disorders, including neuropathic or musculoskeletal pain. The recent acknowledgment of cardiovascular risk associated with both nonselective NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors (like Celebrex and Vioxx), in addition to usual concerns about the use of opioids (“narcotics”) if there are other options that will provide adequate pain relief, has brought increased attention to the use and benefits of topical analgesics which can provide pain relief similar to oral formulations without the associated systemic side effects, such as gastrointestinal upset. Topical pain meds are convenient and painless to use, which improves patient compliance. Ease of use may reduce overall treatment costs. Because they are applied directly to the target site, topical analgesics can accumulate to therapeutic levels in the tissues under the area of application, even though the blood levels are low because only small amounts of medication are absorbed systemically. Lower systemic drug levels potentially lower the risk of organ toxicity. When oral dosing is not feasible due to risks of side effects or because the patient is nauseated or unconscious, topical therapy should be considered.