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Joint and muscle pain creams – all your questions answered

06 Sep 2019
Joint and muscle pain creams – all your questions answered News image

As winter sports teams head into their end-of-season finals and people around Australia swap winter hibernation for spring fitness regimes, soft tissue injuries and exercise aches and pains are on the agenda.

Pain relief creams or gels can be a good first port of call for the relief of muscle or joint pain and may be suitable for people who can’t use the same active ingredient in pill form.

NPS MedicineWise has new consumer information on gel and cream pain relievers answering common questions about these products and how they should be used.

“Creams and gels for relief from muscle and joint pain often contain the active ingredients ibuprofen, diclofenac or piroxicam,” says Dr Jill Thistlethwaite – general practitioner and medical adviser at NPS MedicineWise.

“Active ingredients are the chemicals in medicines that make them work – and you may have seen some of these same active ingredients in over-the-counter medicines you swallow for pain relief.

“Different brands of pain relief creams and gels may be available in different pharmacies and your pharmacist can help you find the best treatment for you,” she says.

Risk of side effects

The amount of pain relief cream or gel to use for each dose depends on the active ingredient, its strength, and size of the area that needs treating. In general, for adults, a 1cm to 4cm piece of gel can be applied up to four times a day.

Some people (including people with stomach ulcers or a heart condition) cannot take these active ingredients in pill form because they can lead to side effects. For minor joint or muscle pain, these medicines in cream or gel form can be tried before their pill equivalents. Using these creams or gels together with their pill equivalents may increase the risk of side effects.

“Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using pain relief creams and gels if you have a heart or stomach condition, kidney or liver disease, if you are pregnant, or if you are also taking other pain-relieving medicines,” says Dr Thistlethwaite.

NPS MedicineWise has a wealth of information for consumers about how to get the most out of medicines on its website.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEDT (excluding public holidays).

To read the new consumer information on gel and cream pain relievers go to www.nps.org.au/consumers/topical-medicines-for-musculoskeletal-pain 

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