How Long Does It Take for Voltaren Gel to Work

Quick facts

  • Voltaren gel is the topical form of diclofenac, an FDA-approved medication for pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA).
  • It can be applied on the joints of the hands and knees affected by OA.
  • It’s effectivity for hip, back, and shoulder pains have not been established.
  • Apply the proper amount of the product by using the dosing card included in the box.
  • Voltaren gel has a slower onset of action than oral diclofenac; improvement can be felt after four hours or more.
  • The gel form of diclofenac is gentler on the gastrointestinal tract; overall, it is associated with less side effects.
  • Possible side effects associated with NSAID use include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dizziness, heartburn, and constipation.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may cause serious side effects such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, anemia, and gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers.

What is Voltaren Gel?

Voltaren gel is the trade name of diclofenac topical gel, which belongs to the group of pain relievers called NSAID or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It is applied in the affected areas to relieve pain from osteoarthritis. The gel form of diclofenac was approved by the US FDA in 2007, though it has been widely used in Europe for many years. It is only indicated for treating pain in joints that are “amenable to topical treatment,” such as the knees and hands. While it is still possible to get relief from spine, hip, or shoulder pains using this gel, its safety and potency for such indications has not been evaluated.

How to apply Voltaren Gel?

Diclofenac sodium is the active substance of Voltaren gel—a benzeneacetic acid derivative that is a white to slightly yellow crystalline powder in an opaque, white gel base. Additional inactive ingredients include: carbomer homopolymer Type C, cocoyl caprylocaprate, fragrance, isopropyl alcohol, mineral oil, polyoxyl 20 cetostearyl ether, propylene glycol, purified water, and strong ammonia solution.

There is a dosing card included in every carton of Voltaren gel to guide you in applying the product. Measure the gel in the clear polypropylene card and then apply to the affected area. There’s a 2-gram and 4-gram line to measure the right amount of product for each application. Use your fingers to gently rub the gel into your skin. Wash your hands after application unless it is the part being treated. The total dose per day for all affected joints must not exceed 32g. Do not wet the area for at least one hour after application. Do not double the prescribed dose without your doctor’s advice.

  • Lower extremities (feet, ankles, or knees) – apply 4g four times daily. Do not exceed 16g per day for each joint.
  • Upper extremities (hands, feet, or elbows) – apply 2g four times daily. Do not exceed 8g per day for each joint.

How long does it take for Voltaren Gel to take effect?

You may experience symptom relief within four hours from application, that’s because the peak plasma time of diclofenac topical is four hours at maximum plasma concentration of 19.4ng/ml. Continuous use of 4g four times daily dose for seven days is associated with a median peak plasma time of 14 hours. Systemic exposure from topical use is significantly lower than oral diclofenac, which means there are fewer side effects associated with gel application. Nevertheless, Voltaren gel may not be the best option for short-term pain relief because of its slower onset of action.

How does it work?

The NSAID diclofenac has been widely studied as an effective treatment for musculoskeletal disorders. It is available in various forms, from patch to gel sprays. Topical diclofenac helps reduce inflammation by inhibiting COX isoenzymes and thereby decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory substance—prostaglandin. Voltaren gel has been shown to provide pain relief for both acute and chronic pain, such as sprains, soft-tissue injuries, blunt impact trauma, osteoarthritis, and epicondylitis. Unlike narcotic pain relievers, diclofenac can assist pain management in a non-addicting manner.

Compared to placebo, Voltaren gel showed significant improvement in musculoskeletal conditions up to four months after treatment. A review of more than 60 studies using about 8,400 participants reported that topical NSAIDs could provide pain relief from strains, sprains, and wear and tear injuries, but with less adverse effects than oral NSAIDs. In continuous application of up to three months, diclofenac gel poses a lower risk of liver damage than oral diclofenac.