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Postgrad Med. 2013 Jul;125(4 Suppl 1):34-41.

The future of topical analgesics.

Abstract

Topically applied analgesic therapies have been used throughout history to treat a variety of patient conditions that present with pain. Before modem pharmaceuticals became readily available, mud-based emollients, salves, cold therapies, and other natural remedies were often used. Now we have effective therapies and are developing advanced topical analgesics as we learn more about the physiology and pathophysiology of pain. The use of topical analgesics may be associated with fewer patient systemic side effects than are seen with oral, parenteral, or transdermally administered agents, making the topical route of administration attractive to prescribers and patients. With further refinement of existing drugs and the development of novel agents, topical analgesics may offer relief for treating patient pain conditions that are currently challenging to treat, such as pain resulting from burns, wound debridement, and pressure ulcers. Recognizing the value of a multimodal approach, topical analgesics may offer a therapeutic option that can become part of a comprehensive treatment plan for the patient. With continued advancements in targeted drug-delivery systems, topical analgesics may be able to provide a method to prevent or reverse the phenomena of peripheral and central sensitization, or the neuroplastic changes believed to be responsible for the transition from acute to chronic pain states in patients. For those patients at risk for developing chronic pain states, such as complex regional pain syndrome, the combination of cutaneous stimulation (achieved through rubbing during application) and analgesic effects produced by the drug itself may prevent the disabling pain that often emerges during the subacute phase of disease. In summary, better utilization of currently available topical analgesics and continued research promise to ensure that topical analgesics are, and will continue to be, important tools in the treatment of patients with resistant pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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