What Does Voltaren Gel Treat?

Diclofenac, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and other similar medicines are commonly used for pain management. Some are available in tablet or capsule form, while others can be applied directly to the affected area. These products belong to a class of medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — and many can be purchased over the counter (per Medical News Today). An example is Voltaren Arthritis Pain Relief Gel, a topical NSAID containing the active compound diclofenac.

As its name suggests, Voltaren gel may help ease the pain and discomfort caused by arthritis. GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Voltaren gel, says it works by suppressing the production of prostaglandins, a class of lipids that regulate pain signals. Your body produces these chemicals to heal damaged tissues and fight infection, explains the Society for Endocrinology. But, in some cases, prostaglandin levels can remain elevated or get too high, which may worsen pain and inflammation.

NSAIDs, including Voltaren, can temporarily block these chemicals and ease arthritis pain. However, Voltaren gel has several other uses you might not be aware of. 

What can you treat with Voltaren gel?

Diclofenac sodium, the active compound in Voltaren gel, can help relieve joint pain and other arthritis symptoms. Its effects kick in within a week or so, notes MedlinePlus. What you may not know is that it may also ease back pain and other aches resulting from sprains and strains, according to the National Health Service (NHS). Moreover, it may benefit people with different forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and gout.

Voltaren Arthritis Pain Relief Gel contains 1% diclofenac, according to the manufacturer's website. This formula is not approved for muscle or back pain, but you may purchase a stronger version — depending on where you live. For example, Canadian consumers can choose from several versions of the product, including one for muscle and back pain, one for back pain, and an extra-strength formula for joint pain and inflammation (via Haleon). These products have significantly higher concentrations of diclofenac than the Arthritis Pain Relief gel. Voltaren Emulgel Joint Pain Extra Strength contains 2.32% diclofenac and can be used for ankle sprains, low back pain, sports injuries, and other painful conditions.

However, more isn't always better. Diclofenac poses serious health risks, and its side effects are dose-dependent, reports a 2015 review published in the journal Drugs. Even the topical form may cause peptic ulcers, edema, stomach pain, dizziness, unexplained weight gain, fatigue, and heart problems, warns MedlinePlus. There's also a risk of liver damage, allergic reactions, fertility problems, and other adverse reactions.