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Use of Creams Applied to the Skin Over the Knee Joint


  1. There are a number of creams and advertisements of products to apply to the skin over the knee joint and true scientific studies are lacking as to their benefit. Some of the creams contain aspirin (salicylic acid) so be careful that you are not taking other medications that may conflict with aspirin products.  Some of the creams contain a local anesthetic that would produce numbness of the skin but would not penetrate deep enough to decrease knee pain.  I tell my patients if they wish to try these medications to do so in a conservative manner and to really check if they are beneficial.
  2. There are specific medical creams obtained by prescription that may provide a benefit to certain patients and I will frequently try these local creams over prescribing an oral medication. The most common cream is a Voltaren that is applied 2-3 times a day and may have a beneficial effect.  Be careful with excessive application as some portion of the anti-inflammatory medication is absorbed and goes into your blood stream.
  3. There is a specific medical cream for patients who have a burning skin sensation or feeling or pins and needles or feeling of hypersensitivity. This means there is an increased stimulation of the local nervous system about the knee joint and there are specific creams and oral medications to decrease the nervous system response to the knee arthritis. Be aware of any burning or local aching as these are common symptoms of a nervous system disorder referred to as a Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).  Besides the burning sensation about the knee there is increased pain and sensitivity to touch of the skin about the knee. and there may be a major aching in the knee joint particularly at night.  These symptoms mean the nervous system is acting in an accelerated manner to the knee arthritis and added treatment is necessary at an early stage.  Do not put off receiving treatment for this nervous system problem as these symptoms may become PERMANENT if not treated early.

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