Pain Solutions

Oral NSAIDs Vs Topical NSAIDs

“NSAID topical”

Pain is the body’s way of signaling to us that something is wrong. Pain is beneficial because it stops us from making a small problem worse. However, no matter how beneficial it is, pain is unpleasant and often stops us from performing our daily routines.

How Does Pain Affect Our Bodies?

Pain does not only affect us physically, it affects us mentally and emotionally as well. Pain drains your energy making you feel tired, irritable and depressed. Controlling pain not only can ward off these bad feelings, it can also promote healing.

When pain is a factor is life, restrictions often follow. Chronic pain can prevent people from being active. Inactivity can lead to obesity, it can affect the circulatory system and can also affect the muscles.

Treating acute pain after a trauma or surgery can assist recovery by allowing the patient to get up from bed and begin to move again. If patients can get up and walk relatively quickly after having a procedure done, they can decrease the risk of blood clots in the legs which can be fatal in some cases. Plus, they can avoid the risk of developing pneumonia, which can lead to sepsis and, in severe cases, require the use of ventilator.


Oral NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) work by blocking enzymes that affect pain and swelling.

When taken for short periods of time, oral NSAIDs are considered generally safe. However, when taken for an extended length of time, these drugs can cause stomach ulcers and bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and increased risk of heart attacks. If these conditions are present already, oral NSAIDs may not even be an option.

Topical NSAIDs

Topical NSAIDs are a great choice for many people, especially those who have a higher risk of developing complications due to oral medications. They are also safer when pain control is needed over a length of time.

How do Topical NSAIDs Work?

The topical NSAIDs that are most widely used are diclofenac (Voltaren), ibuprofen (Nurofen), ketoprofen (Orudis), indomethacin (Indocin), and piroxicam (Feldene). Topical pain relievers can be found in the form of sprays, creams, gels or patches.

Topical NSAIDs work in the same way that oral NSAIDs do; they block enzymes that affect pain and swelling. However, rather then taking this pain reliever orally and having to travel through the body’s systems, they can be applied directly to the skin on the affected area allowing the ability to localize pain relief.

Topical NSAIDs can be worthwhile when the pain is close to the skin like joint or muscle pain. These pain relievers become less affective when they have to travel deep to the affected area. When it comes to all over pain, oral NSAIDs still may be the most effective pain relievers.

Risks Associated with Topical NSAIDs

The common risks that are associated with topical pain relievers include rash, skin irritation and a burning sensation at the site. Topical NSAIDs can be applied when needed but, like oral pain relievers, should not be taken for an extended length of time or without a doctors guidance.

Which One is Right for Me?

If you are trying to determine which pain reliever is right for you, ask yourself these three questions.

1. Where are you feeling pain? If the pain is localized near the surface of the skin like in your hands or knees, topical NSAIDs might be the right choice for you. If your pain is deeper or allover the body, oral NSAIDs would probably be better.

2. Do you have other health risks? Anyone who suffers from liver disease, high blood pressure, or heart disease should consult their health care provider before taking any kind of NSAIDs.

3. How long is needed to treat your pain? Oral NSAIDs should only be taken for only a few weeks at the most. Topical NSAIDs can be take for longer periods of time but only up to three months.

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