Health & Wellness

Creams Can Replace Opioids for Pain


There’s new hope for chronic pain sufferers who fear the dark side of opioids.

By Wendy Haaf


Topical creams containing analgesic medications may be able to help people with chronic muscle, nerve, or arthritis pain reduce their need for much riskier opioid pain pills.

According to study results published in the Journal of Pain Research, American researchers tracked two groups of patients (one for three months, the other for six) with such conditions who were prescribed skin-applied analgesics such as diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and compared them to patients who didn’t receive the creams. More than half of both groups (54% and 60%) using the topical preparations were able to reduce their opioid use, versus just 4% and 6% of those not using a cream.

“The results of this study show that topical analgesics were associated with reductions of up to 60% in the use of concurrent pain medications, including oral opioid analgesics,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gudin, the study’s lead investigator of and director of Pain and Palliative Care at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey. “Topical agents have the potential to provide analgesic effects without the risk of abuse, misuse, and addiction or systemic adverse events associated with oral analgesics.”

Photo: iStock/Bojan89.