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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Topical NSAIDs for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, April 2016
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (96th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (85th percentile)

Mentioned by

2 news outlets
3 blogs
1 policy source
45 X users
13 Facebook pages
7 Wikipedia pages
1 Google+ user
1 YouTube creator


205 Dimensions

Readers on

424 Mendeley
1 CiteULike
Topical NSAIDs for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, April 2016
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd007400.pub3
Pubmed ID

Sheena Derry, Philip Conaghan, José António P Da Silva, Philip J Wiffen, R Andrew Moore


Use of topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat chronic musculoskeletal conditions has become widely accepted because they can provide pain relief without associated systemic adverse events. This review is an update of 'Topical NSAIDs for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults', originally published in Issue 9, 2012. To review the evidence from randomised, double-blind, controlled trials on the efficacy and safety of topically applied NSAIDs for chronic musculoskeletal pain in adults. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, and our own in-house database; the date of the last search was February 2016. We also searched the references lists of included studies and reviews, and sought unpublished studies by asking personal contacts and searching online clinical trial registers and manufacturers' web sites. We included randomised, double-blind, active or inert carrier (placebo) controlled trials in which treatments were administered to adults with chronic musculoskeletal pain of moderate or severe intensity. Studies had to meet stringent quality criteria and there had to be at least 10 participants in each treatment arm, with application of treatment at least once daily. Two review authors independently assessed studies for inclusion and extracted data. We used numbers of participants achieving each outcome to calculate risk ratio and numbers needed to treat (NNT) or harm (NNH) compared to carrier or other active treatment. We were particularly interested to compare different formulations (gel, cream, plaster) of individual NSAIDs. The primary outcome was 'clinical success', defined as at least a 50% reduction in pain, or an equivalent measure such as a 'very good' or 'excellent' global assessment of treatment, or 'none' or 'slight' pain on rest or movement, measured on a categorical scale. We identified five new studies for this update, which now has information from 10,631 participants in 39 studies, a 38% increase in participants from the earlier review; 33 studies compared a topical NSAID with carrier. All studies examined topical NSAIDs for treatment of osteoarthritis, and for pooled analyses studies were generally of moderate or high methodological quality, although we considered some at risk of bias from short duration and small size.In studies lasting 6 to 12 weeks, topical diclofenac and topical ketoprofen were significantly more effective than carrier for reducing pain; about 60% of participants had much reduced pain. With topical diclofenac, the NNT for clinical success in six trials (2343 participants) was 9.8 (95% confidence interval (CI) 7.1 to 16) (moderate quality evidence). With topical ketoprofen, the NNT for clinical success in four trials (2573 participants) was 6.9 (5.4 to 9.3) (moderate quality evidence). There was too little information for analysis of other individual topical NSAIDs compared with carrier. Few trials compared a topical NSAID to an oral NSAID, but overall they showed similar efficacy (low quality evidence). These efficacy results were almost completely derived from people with knee osteoarthritis.There was an increase in local adverse events (mostly mild skin reactions) with topical diclofenac compared with carrier or oral NSAIDs, but no increase with topical ketoprofen (moderate quality evidence). Reporting of systemic adverse events (such as gastrointestinal upsets) was poor, but where reported there was no difference between topical NSAID and carrier (very low quality evidence). Serious adverse events were infrequent and not different between topical NSAID and carrier (very low quality evidence).Clinical success with carrier occurred commonly - in around half the participants in studies lasting 6 to 12 weeks. Both direct and indirect comparison of clinical success with oral placebo indicates that response rates with carrier (topical placebo) are about twice those seen with oral placebo.A substantial amount of data from completed, unpublished studies was unavailable (up to 6000 participants). To the best of our knowledge, much of this probably relates to formulations that have never been marketed. Topical diclofenac and topical ketoprofen can provide good levels of pain relief beyond carrier in osteoarthritis for a minority of people, but there is no evidence for other chronic painful conditions. There is emerging evidence that at least some of the substantial placebo effects seen in longer duration studies derive from effects imparted by the NSAID carrier itself, and that NSAIDs add to that.

X Demographics

X Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 45 X users who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.
Mendeley readers

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 424 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Canada 2 <1%
Spain 1 <1%
United Kingdom 1 <1%
Unknown 420 99%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 72 17%
Student > Bachelor 45 11%
Researcher 38 9%
Student > Ph. D. Student 31 7%
Student > Postgraduate 26 6%
Other 91 21%
Unknown 121 29%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 133 31%
Nursing and Health Professions 54 13%
Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Science 27 6%
Psychology 14 3%
Unspecified 11 3%
Other 46 11%
Unknown 139 33%
Attention Score in Context

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 70. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 28 July 2023.
All research outputs
of 25,374,917 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 11,484 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 313,306 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 240 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 25,374,917 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 97th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 11,484 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 39.9. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 90% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 313,306 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 96% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 240 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done well, scoring higher than 85% of its contemporaries.