Knee Osteoarthritis: Topical Medications

Topical therapies are applied to the surface of the skin in the form of a cream or ointment. They can be used alone or in combination with other treatments. They can be beneficial for people who have mild to moderate knee pain. Topical NSAIDs and capsaicin are two types of topical therapies available to people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Topical NSAIDs

Topical NSAIDs have the advantage over oral NSAIDs in that they are safer for individuals at risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Some available products include diclofenac, ibuprofen, and ASA (acetylsalicylic acid). These creams may have a beneficial effect on treating pain and inflammation due to osteoarthritis however they are probably not as effective as oral NSAIDs.


Capsaicin works by interfering with the transmission of nerve impulses responsible for the sensation of pain. It also interferes with a factor involved in producing joint inflammation. Capsaicin is applied directly to the knee four times daily. It needs to be used regularly to be effective. It has shown to be a safe and effective way for treating mild to moderate cases of osteoarthritis. The most common side effect is a burning sensation after application.

To read more about osteoarthritis of the knee please visit the links section. Links have been provided to other websites as well as online medical journals. Knee injury topics can also be accessed.