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Capsaicin Creams for Arthritis Pain? Pros and Cons

by Cassandra Willis
Author of Articles on Topical Liniments

How Does Capsaicin Work?

Unlike like other topical pain relief creams that give instant relief, capsaicin creams reduce pain gradually and must be used continually to feel and sustain the benefits. However, the benefits can be quite great if used over time, just look at the statistics.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in these creams, reduces substance P, a chemical the body uses to transmit pain impulses to the brain. Essentially, capsaicin creams, like Capzasin HP® and Zostrix®, inhibit the nervous system’s ability to register pain.

What Are the Cons of Using Capsaicin for Arthritis?

Zostrix High Potency , Arthritis Pain Relief, Odor Free Cream

The major, long-term con of using capsaicin cream for arthritis pain is, while it eliminates the response to pain, it does nothing for inflammation, the cause of the pain. Besides causing pain, inflammation is also what causes joint damage in arthritis.

The other major, but immediate, con of using capsaicin cream for arthritis pain is the burning sensation. For some, the heat is relaxing and comforting, but, for others, it is even more painful than the pain they are trying to alleviate. If you have sensitive skin or find that heat aggravates your arthritis, test this product on a small area of your body first. Even if your arthritis responds well to heat, start with a lower concentration (0.0025%) before you try the high potency creams. As with any remedy, eventually the body will adapt and you will need to increase the concentration in order to continue to feel the effects.

When using this product, it is important to remember that it is derived from chili peppers and the burning sensation can be easily transferred through touch. Be careful not to touch your eyes or any other sensitive areas after applying the cream. Capsaicin creams are not easy to wash off, so it’s also a good idea to apply the cream with something other than your hands.

When using a capsaicin cream, it will take a few days or weeks before you start feeling results, so you may need a secondary pain management plan.

What Are the Benefits of Using Capsaicin for Arthritis?

Capzasin-HP Arthritis Relief Topical Analgesic Cream

If you’re not concerned with joint damage or heat, capsaicin creams do limit the nervous system’s ability to sense and communicate pain. Both Zostrix® and Capzasin® are odorless and come in a variety of strengths and applications.

The heat alone can be very soothing for arthritis pain. Although capsaicin cream should be applied 3-4 times daily, it is deep-penetrating and long-lasting. Any areas where the cream has been applied will “reheat” if you do any physical activity, cover them with clothes or blankets, or expose them to heat (hot shower, sunlight, etc).

Capsaicin does not have any known drug reactions, so it will be safe for you to continue your other arthritis medications or take it along with over the counter pain relievers.

Hidden Allergen Considerations

Any capsaicin cream should be safe for you as long as you do not have a sensitivity to its active or inactive ingredients. Food and chemical sensitivities are the main cause of arthritis so it is important to avoid exposure to your problem substances via consumption, inhalation, or skin absorption.

For more information about food and chemical sensitivities and how to identify them, read about the ALCAT Test.

What else do you need to know to help heal yourself from arthritis?

→Researching the Safety and Effectiveness of Brand Name Products
→Updated Allergen List
→Arthritis Pain Medication Guide
→How to Make Your Own Probiotics at Home

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