When it comes to coping with the persistent pain of arthritis, you welcome every little bit of help you can get. And that little bit of help might be a topical analgesic-one of the countless creams, gels, sprays, lotions, sticks, and patches that line the shelves of your local pharmacy. All you have to do is apply a small amount to the surface of the skin surrounding a bothersome joint. Within a short time, your pain will fade away, perhaps even disappear completely-for a while. Thats welcome news if youre worried about the possible side effects of pill-based pain relievers. "When used in combination with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)," says Daniel Mazanec, MD, a rheumatologist and associate director of Cleveland Clinics Center for Spine Health, "a topical treatment can help reduce your needed dosage as well as lower the risk of side effects." Adds Michael Wascovich, RPh, director of ambulatory services in Cleveland Clinics Department of Pharmacy, "Topical analgesics offer pain cessation that is virtually immediate. Theyre available in a broad spectrum of efficacy-high, medium, and low. And they are generally inexpensive."