The FDA has approved a new over-the-counter topical gel for pain in muscles from arthritis or muscle aches and sprains.
Sold as Voltaren Arthritis Pain, the gel is a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called diclofenac.
The American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend this topical NSAID as an early pain treatment.
The advantage of a topical gel is that lower levels of the drug enter the bloodstream. This might well be a safer way to relieve pain. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, reduce inflammation and relieve pain for conditions such as arthritis, but they are thought to increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. In fact, in case you haven’t noticed, there is a warning on the labels of these drugs that says exactly that.
Cardiologists recommend taking the smallest possible dose of an NSAID for the shortest possible time, according to The Harvard Heart Letter.
Most NSAIDS can cause the kidneys to hold salt and water, raising blood pressure, so consistent, long-term use is discouraged. They are also implicated in changes in the lining of blood vessels, suggesting they might increase the chance of stroke.
Only the NSAID aspirin is recommended for longer term use in certain cases. In low doses, aspirin is helpful for those who have had a stroke or heart attack related to blood clot. For them, the low-dose aspirin helps to discourage the formation of clots.
If a doctor has not recommended low-dose aspirin, avoid taking it routinely. Aspirin can cause bleeding, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract.