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Pain Manag. 2015 Sep;5(5):359-71. doi: 10.2217/pmt.15.23. Epub 2015 Jul 21.

Topical treatment in pain medicine: from ancient remedies to modern usage.

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Perth Pain Management Centre, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
Centre for Research on Chronic Pain & Inflammatory Diseases, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.


Over several millennia, substances have been applied to the skin for treatment of pain. Some ingredients are in current use; others have been discontinued. Mechanisms of action include interactions with nociceptive neural networks and inflammatory processes. Substances must penetrate the stratum corneum barrier and vehicles that enhance penetration have been developed. Topical drugs with links to the past include menthol, capsaicin, some opioids, local anesthetic agents and NSAIDs. Mandragora is also described as an example of a herbal remedy that has been discontinued due to its toxicity. The future for topical drugs is promising, with the advent of new drugs tailored for specific pain mechanisms and the development of both penetration enhancers and sterile preparation methods.


antiquity; current agents; mechanisms; receptors; stratum corneum; topical drugs; vehicles

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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