What you need to know about capsaicin cream


If you are living with pain , you may know very well how difficult it is to deal with it. You may have heard of capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers. When applied topically as a cream, ointment, gel, lotion, or transdermal skin patch, capsaicin is believed to relieve pain by temporarily changing the way your body perceives pain.

Get Medical Information / Cindy Chang

Using capsaicin cream

When applied to the skin, capsaicin induces local desensitization after a period of initial irritation. Capsaicin cream relieves pain associated with a variety of conditions, including :

  • Back pain
  • Drop
  • Headaches, like cluster headaches.
  • Pain in the joints, such as the knees.
  • Neuropathy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Radiculitis
  • Herpes zoster (post-herpetic neuralgia)
  • Tendinitis, like tennis elbow
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Topical Capsaicin Benefits

Several preliminary studies indicate that topical capsaicin may have many health benefits. These are the results of the available research.

Chronic neuropathic pain

In a 2017 review, researchers evaluated eight previously published clinical trials. It involved 2,488 participants) who studied the effectiveness of a high-concentration capsaicin patch in people with chronic neuropathic pain (pain caused by nerve damage caused by trauma or trauma). disease) of the following conditions:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • HIV neuropathy
  • Peripheral diabetic neuropathy

The report found that a small number of participants who had the patch reported that they improved "significantly" or "a lot" after using the capsaicin patch.

A previous review concluded that there was insufficient data on low capsaicin patches (containing less than 1% capsaicin) to make any treatment recommendations and suggested that this was not effective .

The high concentration (8%) capsaicin patch is FDA approved for the treatment of postherpetic neuralgia pain. Due to the initial pain and burning sensation, a healthcare professional applies the patch under local anesthesia in a clinic or hospital.

Pain in osteoarthritis

In a report published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage in 2014, medical experts evaluated data on the use of drug and non-drug treatments for osteoarthritis to provide recommendations for pain management in knee osteoarthritis .

In the report, capsaicin was found to be suitable for people with knee osteoarthritis (rather than multi-joint osteoarthritis) who have no other related conditions.

Back pain

In a report published in Spine in 2016, researchers evaluated previously published trials evaluating the effectiveness of herbal treatments (including capsaicin cream or patch) in people with low back pain and found that capsaicin reduced pain the most. than placebo .

However, the authors noted that more trials are needed to compare treatments with standard treatments.

Other conditions

Topical capsaicin is also being investigated to:

Possible side effects.

Studies have reported local skin adverse reactions (such as burning sensation, pain, itching, and redness of the skin) in the initial period of treatment, which generally resolve after one to two weeks of treatment. Burning and pain are sometimes described as a "severe sunburn" sensation when using a high concentration patch.

Other side effects include:

  • The heavy-duty patch can cause pain, inflammation, coughing, swelling, redness, and blisters on the skin, and the pain worsens in the first two days (often requires pain relievers) and then gradually subsides.
  • Transient arterial hypertension has been observed, especially with elevated levels of capsaicin. The risk is believed to be higher in people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease .
  • People with HIV neuropathy have reported diarrhea, weight loss, and throat infections after using a high-strength patch.
  • The safety of long-term repeated use of high concentrations of capsaicin is unknown. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor.

If you have a chronic nerve disorder, consult your doctor before using capsaicin cream.

Application tips

Here are some tips for using capsaicin cream:

  • Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes and then wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Although people sometimes wear gloves when applying capsaicin cream at home, capsaicin can diffuse through latex gloves.
  • Capsaicin should not be applied to open wounds or damaged skin.
  • Care must be taken to avoid contact of the cream with other people, especially children and pets.
  • If capsaicin cream is applied to the feet, cover them to avoid contaminating the floor and spreading the capsaicin.
  • Cold, dry bags wrapped in cloth are believed to alleviate the burning sensation that occurs after application. They are used only for a short time so as not to damage the skin.

Word Get Drug Information

While not everyone responds to capsaicin cream, it can help some people manage pain when combined with standard treatment. The cream requires regular use and has side effects.

Higher concentration patches are used in healthcare settings. Although the higher concentration patch does not require repeated daily use, it can cause severe burning and pain in the first few days after application.

If you plan to try capsaicin cream or any other topical form of capsaicin, talk to your doctor to see if it is right for you and what to expect from the recommended dosage.

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