Arnica vs ibuprofen gel for arthritis pain

Rubbing on arnica provides pain relief in people with osteoarthritis that affects their hands.

First the details.

  • 204 patients were recruited from 20 clinics.
  • Randomly assigned to ibuprofen gel (Optifen Gel) or arnica gel (A. Vogel Arnica Gel).
  • They gently rubbed in a 4 cm (1.5 inch) strip over the affected joints 3 times a day for 3 weeks.

And the results.

  • Pain intensity and hand function improved in both treatment groups.
  • 24% reduction in pain with ibuprofen
  • 27% reduction with arnica
  • Grip strength, ability to use tools, and tie a knot improved similarly in both groups.
  • 6% of the ibuprofen group and 5% of the arnica group report treatment-related adverse events.

In an article in, Dr. Melzer of the University of Zurich in Switzerland noted that earlier studies where arnica gel was used topically were also positive.

Also, “The improvements seen in our study were clinically relevant. This topical application of arnica gel can be regarded as a viable alternative to ibuprofen gel when treating osteoarthritis of the hand joints.”

5/6/07 20:09 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.