Capsaicin Cream Relieves Nerve Pain
A new review study finds that capsaicin cream provides some pain relief from peripheral neuropathies (nerve pain outside the central nervous system, or CNS), which often affect people who have diabetes, AIDS, arthritis, shingles, and cancer, among other conditions. Capsaicin is the active component found in chili peppers.
Peripheral neuropathies are disorders that affect the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord (CNS), and includes nerves that receive feelings such as pain, heat, and touch, as well as those that affect muscle movement. Peripheral neuropathy usually begins in the longest nerves, which are those in the toes, and gradually affect other areas of the body. Symptoms typically include gradual onset of numbness and tingling, extreme sensitivity to touch, and muscle weakness if the motor nerves are affected. Nerve pain can be burning, sharp, or jabbing.
This new study conducted at Oxford University looked at nine studies involving 1,600 adult subjects. In seven studies, the participants had used either mild capsaicin creams (0.075%), which patients could apply themselves, or a placebo cream. In the remaining two studies, the subjects had used the newer high-dose patch (8%), which required application of a topical anesthetic by a health care provider before the patch was applied, or a placebo patch.
Forty-one percent of the participants who used the capsaicin cream reported some pain relief compared to 26 percent of those who got placebo. In the patch studies, 39 percent of those who wore the active patches reported that their pain was reduced by at least 33 percent, compared with 30 percent of those who had placebo patches.
The study’s authors noted that capsaicin cream may best be considered as an alternative pain relief measure for nerve pain or last resort if other pain relief methods, including oral medications, are not successful. For some individuals, however, who do not want to take oral preparations because of side effects or other reasons, topical capsaicin cream or a capsaicin patch may be a viable and somewhat effective option. Capsaicin use does have side effects of its own, however, including mild, temporary burning, stinging, and redness at the application site.
Derry et al. Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews 2009; 4 DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD07393