February 01, 2020

Use arthritis gel safely

A topical gel for arthritis pain that contains a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) — diclofenac (Voltaren) gel — can spare your body up to 95% of the drug exposure that would occur by taking an oral NSAID such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB).

Still, you need to use the gel properly by:

  • Avoiding it if you have cardiovascular disease or common gastrointestinal problems such as internal bleeding or ulcers — Diclofenac gel increases risk of cardiovascular or gastrointestinal side effects, even if the risk is lower than for oral NSAIDs.
  • Never taking it at the same time as you take other NSAIDs — Tell your doctor and pharmacist about any drugs you take prior to starting diclofenac gel.
  • Applying it only to clean, dry skin that's free of scars, cracks or wounds — Avoid using skin care products immediately before and after applying diclofenac gel.
  • Using only as much as your doctor prescribes — Diclofenac gel often comes with a dosing card for easy reference.
  • Ensuring full, effective coverage — Apply the gel in tiny dots on front, sides and back of joints, then rub in. Don't cover the area with clothing, and don't expose it to direct sunlight for at least 10 minutes after. Wait an hour before bathing or rinsing the site.
  • Avoiding skin-to-skin contact until the gel has fully dried — This is especially true with children. Wash your hands...