Although painkiller creams and gels can help with osteoarthritis (OA), researchers have found that their effect lasts only a very brief period. The study involved an analysis of 13 trials of painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The results indicated that topical solutions were no more effective than a placebo after 14 days.

US and European guidelines recommend topical NSAIDs as an effective treatment for OA. The researchers, however, said that the recommendations need revisions. "No evidence supports the long-term use of topical NSAIDs in osteoarthritis," said Weiya Zhang, PhD, an epidemiologist and expert on muscle diseases. (The findings were reported recently in the British Medical Journal.)