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Capsaicin (Zostrix), available without a prescription, is a
pain reliever that comes in a cream that you apply directly to your skin
(topical analgesic). It has been found to relieve joint pain from
osteoarthritis in some people when rubbed into the
skin over affected joints.1 To be beneficial, the
cream must be applied 3 or 4 times a day, and the effects may not be seen for
The main ingredient in capsaicin is an extract from
hot peppers. It appears to have no serious side effects. But some people may be
allergic to capsaicin. The first time you use this topical cream, apply it to
just a small area of skin to make sure there is no allergic reaction. Even
people who are not allergic may notice a burning sensation. Some people may not
be able to tolerate the discomfort associated with using capsaicin.
Lozada CJ (2009). Management of osteoarthritis. In GS
Firestein et al., eds., Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1563–1577. Philadelphia: Saunders
April 8, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology
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