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By Susane Cho, University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy

Curist delivers FDA-approved medicines to your door at half the price of traditional brands. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time.

When it comes to topical treatments for pain relief, diclofenac gel and lidocaine cream are popular options. Have you ever wondered what the differences are between the two?

Is Diclofenac the Same Thing as Lidocaine?

Diclofenac and lidocaine are not the same thing; they are two different medications. Diclofenac and lidocaine both relieve pain, but do so via different mechanisms and are used for different conditions. Diclofenac gel was formulated for arthritis-related joint pain and lidocaine cream is commonly used to numb pain and irritation of the skin. 

How do Diclofenac Gel and Lidocaine Cream Work? 

Diclofenac is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which works by inhibiting enzymes that lead to the production of important inflammatory mediators (i.e., prostaglandins and thromboxanes). Blocking this response ultimately results in reduced inflammation, pain, fever, and swelling. 

Lidocaine is an anesthetic that numbs pain by blocking nerve conduction and interrupting the transmission of pain signals. Lidocaine is useful in treating backaches, muscle soreness, mild joint pain, itching, and irritation.

How are Diclofenac Gel and Lidocaine Cream Similar? 

Diclofenac gel and lidocaine cream are both topical treatments that provide direct pain relief to the site of application. Neither diclofenac gel nor lidocaine cream should be applied on skin that is broken, infected, swollen, or covered with rash. Topical pain products may be preferred treatments especially for patients who are unable to swallow pills or have other medical conditions that require more caution around systemic side effects. Although diclofenac gel and lidocaine cream are often used for different conditions, both products may be used to manage joint pain. 

What are the Key Differences between Diclofenac Gel and Lidocaine Cream?

Lidocaine can be used to treat backaches, muscle soreness, mild joint pain, itching, hemorrhoid irritation, and nerve pain. Generally, lidocaine cream takes around 30-60 minutes to start working and may last for 1-3 hours, depending on how long the cream stays on the skin.

In contrast to lidocaine cream, diclofenac gel is most effective at treating arthritis-related joint pain. The full effects of diclofenac gel are typically felt within 7 days of applying four times daily (although it is possible to feel some relief after a few hours), and may last for 1-2 days after final application. In addition, diclofenac gel should only be used on the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet. It is not recommended for use in other areas with pain deeper below the surface of the skin, such as the back, hip, or shoulder. 

Is Diclofenac Gel Stronger than Lidocaine Cream? Is Lidocaine Cream Stronger than Diclofenac Gel?

The effectiveness and strength of diclofenac gel vs. lidocaine cream will depend on the type of pain and the affected site. Diclofenac gel is most effective for arthritis-related joint pain, while lidocaine is most effective for burning, itching, irritation from hemorrhoids and anorectal conditions, and nerve pain. 

In terms of side effects, both may lead to irritation at the site of application. However, caution is advised when using NSAIDs such as diclofenac if you have cardiovascular disease, kidney or liver impairment, aspirin-sensitive asthma, or a history of ulcer disease or gastrointestinal bleeding. It is important to discuss pain relief options with your doctor before using this medication.

What is Better for Arthritis Pain: Diclofenac Gel or Lidocaine Cream?

Both diclofenac gel and lidocaine cream may be used for joint pain - but broadly speaking, diclofenac gel is a better option for treating arthritis pain than lidocaine cream. NSAIDs are analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory agents that have shown great efficacy in arthritis. Diclofenac gel is a topical NSAID that exhibits comparable effectiveness with a lower risk of systemic side effects when compared with oral therapy. This makes diclofenac gel a recommended first-line option for arthritis-related joint pain per the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) OA Treatment Guidelines. Many patients still find relief with lidocaine, which works by dulling the pain. However, insufficient data exists to recommend lidocaine specifically for arthritis. It should be noted that diclofenac gel is only recommended for application to the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and feet. In contrast, lidocaine may also be used to treat backaches and other areas of muscle soreness.

What is Better for Hemorrhoids: Diclofenac Gel or Lidocaine Cream?

Lidocaine cream is better for pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids and other anorectal disorders. Lidocaine works to numb pain by blocking nerve conduction and interrupting the transmission of pain signals. It is important to note that lidocaine cream should not be applied inside the rectum, and should be discontinued if you have rectal bleeding. Lidocaine cream should not be applied on skin that is broken, infected, swollen, or covered with rash. Discuss pain relief options with your doctor if your symptoms persist.

What is Better for Nerve Pain: Diclofenac Gel or Lidocaine Cream?

Lidocaine cream is better than diclofenac gel for nerve pain. Lidocaine is an anesthetic, and numbs pain by blocking nerve conduction. Lidocaine cream should not be applied on skin that is broken, infected, swollen, or covered with rash. Discuss pain relief options with your doctor if your symptoms persist.

Can I Switch from Lidocaine Cream to Diclofenac Gel?

If you have arthritis-related joint pain that is not relieved by lidocaine cream, diclofenac gel may be a great option to consider. However, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor before making changes to your pain regimen. Diclofenac is an NSAID, which may require extra precautions depending on your current medications and other health conditions/history.

Can I Use Diclofenac Gel and Lidocaine Cream Together?

There are cases where using a topical diclofenac gel together with lidocaine cream may be effective in managing pain. Discuss pain relief options like the use of lidocaine cream and diclofenac gel with your doctor before using these medications together. 

Where Can I Buy Diclofenac Gel and Lidocaine Cream Online?

Diclofenac gel and lidocaine cream are available in local pharmacies as well as stores online like Curist, and do not need a prescription.

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This content is for informational use only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for and should not be relied upon for specific medical recommendations. Please talk with your doctor about any questions or concerns.