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Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomized, double-blind study – Source: Rheumatology International, Apr 2007

  [ 32 votes ]   [ 2 Comments ]
By Reto Widrig, Jorg Melzer, et al. • • September 18, 2009

The use of topical preparations for symptom relief is common in osteoarthritis.

The effects of ibuprofen (5%) and arnica (50 g tincture/100 g, DER 1:20), as gel preparations in patients with radiologically confirmed and symptomatically active osteoarthritis of interphalangeal joints of hands, were evaluated in a randomized, double-blind study in 204 patients, to ascertain differences in pain relief and hand function after 21 days' treatment.

Diagnosis was according to established criteria; primary endpoints were pain intensity and hand function; statistical design was as per current regulatory guidelines for testing topical preparations.

There were no differences between the two groups in pain and hand function improvements, or in any secondary end points evaluated. [Specifically, "Pain intensity and hand function improved in both treatment groups. The ibuprofen group had a 23.9% reduction in pain; the arnica group had a 26.6% reduction. Overall hand function (such as grip strength, ability to use tools, and tie a knot) improved similarly in the two groups."]

Adverse events were reported by six patients (6.1%) on ibuprofen and by five patients (4.8%) on arnica.

Our results confirm that this preparation of arnica is not inferior to ibuprofen when treating osteoarthritis of hands.

[Note: For more details of this trial and its findings, noting the results of other trials involving osteoarthritis of the knee and recovery from hand surgery, see this write-up at the Bastyr University website.]

Source: Rheumatology International, Apr 2007 ;27(6):585-91. PMID: 17318618, by Widrig R, Suter A, Saller R, Melzer J. Rheumatology Clinic, St Gallen; Bioforce AG, Roggwil; Department of Internal Medicine, Institute of Complementary Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland. [E-mail:]

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Article Comments Post a Comment

No comparison, really
Posted by: shadowsmom42
Sep 23, 2009
I don't think the article showed that arnica and ibuprofen gave the same results as far as helping with pain. All it stated were the adverse effects. They were close, but I didn't read that arnica works just as good as ibuprofen. Did anyone else???
Reply Reply

Posted by: hotdogs
Sep 23, 2009
Are we talking about all NSAIDs or just ibuprofen? When did "topical" NSAIDs become an effective analgesic? How does one develop osteoarthritis in one's hands? I've got OA in my hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows, but I rarely put so much strain on my fingers that I've developed OA in my hands. This is a pointless article.
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