Can Lidoderm Patches be Used for Arthritis Pain?

Lidoderm patches

Lidoderm patches are adhesive patches that are applied to the skin to allow absorbtion of medication in a specific area. Lidoderm contains a 5% solution of the anesthetic lidocaine. This medication is similar to the numbing injections patients receive during a dental procedure. The FDA has approved Lidoderm patches for use specifically in patients who have experienced pain due to shingles. It is currently being studied for other types of pain, including knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Lidoderm patches are used for arthritis pain by some patients, though it is not currently approved by the FDA for this indication.

Studies on Lidoderm for arthritis

Studies showing improvements with lidocaine patches used for arthritis pain are limited. One small study in 2004 involved patients with osteoarthritis in the knee who used lidocaine patches for two weeks. Patients generally reported a decrease in their pain with minimal side effects. The effects of lidocaine on knee pain were also assessed in a 2008 study that used 143 patients with arthritis of the knee. These study subjects tried lidocaine patches in comparison with oral Celebrex for 12 weeks of treatment for pain. In this study, no difference was found between the two treatments, indicating that patients can expect the same level of relief from Lidoderm as Celebrex.

Lidoderm side effects

Patients who try Lidoderm patches for pain due to arthritis should be aware of the possibility of side effects with the medication. Most are mild, but according to the prescribing information for Lidoderm, people with liver disease must be careful since they may not process the lidocaine efficiently, causing the medication to build up in their bloodstream. Too much lidocaine can lead to irregular heart rhythms. Other potential side effects can include:

  • allergic reactions to the adhesive in the patch
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • nausea

The amount of lidocaine in the patch is small, so most patients are able to use the medication with few problems. According to the prescribing information, patients should not use more than three Lidoderm patches at a time. These remain on the skin for up to three hours. Patients should store patches carefully. Even after use, some medication remains in the patch. This can be dangerous to children or pets who might play with the patches.

Using Lidoderm patches

Lidoderm patches come in an envelope which must be opened for patch removal. The patch can be cut to fit the size of the body part where the pain occurs. After cutting the patch, unused portions should be carefully discarded, as they do contain the active drug. The plastic liner is removed from the patch, which is then applied to clean, dry skin. Patches can be worn for as long as twelve hours at a time. Patients should avoid heating pads, electric blankets and other heat sources while using the patch. Heat applied on or near the patch can cause too much medication to release quickly, leading to a greater risk of side effects.

Patients with questions about Lidoderm patches used for arthritis pain should discuss their concerns with their healthcare provider.


Lidoderm Prescribing Information.

Topical lidocaine patch 5% may target a novel underlying pain mechanism in osteoarthritis (abstract). Curr Med Res Opin. 2004;20(9):1455.

Comparison of the effectiveness and tolerability of lidocaine patch 5% versus celecoxib for osteoarthritis-related knee pain: post hoc analysis of a 12 week, prospective, randomized, active controlled, open label, parallel-group trial in adults. Clin Ther. 2008;30(12):2366.