20 Important Things Doctors Wish You Knew About Arthritis

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3. NSAID gels, drops, or patches are great options

“When you use a topical it gets absorbed through the skin so it has to penetrate far to get to the cartilage,” says Dr. Colvin. “Topicals may not help as much as oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but they are great for people who don’t want to take a pill, and they have fewer side effects like gastrointestinal bleeding.”

And research shows they can help: In one study, when people with osteoarthritis used NSAID gels, drops, or patches, half said their pain fell by 50 percent or more over 12 weeks. Also, if your stomach is sensitive to drugs you should use topical NSAIDs, because they may help you avoid your tummy ache.

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