Medications Used to Treat Arthritis

Published by Steve Hedberg on March 23, 2012 Under arthritis

Staying healthy and active is a very important part of an arthritis treatment plan, however most individuals will also take medications as part of their treatment.

There are a few medications that can be gotten over the counter, but most physicians will also prescribe medications to treat arthritis. Medications can be used to treat most symptoms of arthritis and are usually the first line of defense before a hip replacement or other arthritis surgery.

A Word of Caution

Before taking any medication, it is very important to talk with your doctor regarding side effects and the effectiveness of the treatment.

It is important to be wary of treatments and nutritional supplements found online, which will often state that they are effective at treating or even curing arthritis.

However, there is no cure for arthritis and, aside from fish oil, there have been few, if any, direct nutrients that are generally agreed to help treat arthritis. There are, however, countless websites and product manufacturers that would lead you to believe otherwise!

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs(NSAIDs)

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDs, are one of the most common medications prescribed by doctors and can be used to treat a variety of types of arthritis, although they are usually most effective with inflammatory arthritis. Most NSAIDs work to block chemicals in the body that cuase inflammation.

NSAIDs are usually not prescribed right away, but rather as a more advanced type of treatment for later stages of arthritis.

Ibuprofen, as well as naproxen and ketoprofen, can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies, however the rest require a prescription.

While NSAIDs can often be very effective at treating the symptoms of arthritis, they can be rather expensive and carry several serious health risks. Most health risks of NSAIDs are related to kidney and stomach related issues, as well as, in certain cases, needing to be taken multiple times each day.

Several NSAIDs are available as topical agents, which are applied to the affected joint and absorbed through the skin. They take longer to take affect and do not remain in the joint as long, however they offer a smaller health risk than NSAIDs do.

COX-2 Inhibitors

COX-2 Inhibitors are another type of anti-inflammatory medication that, like NSAIDs, suppress some of the natural chemicals in the body that cause inflammation.

Many of the side effects of NSAIDs are related to the blockage of COX-1, which is an enzyme that naturally occurs in the body.

COX-2 Inhibitors offer a different, and arguably, more effective way of treating inflammation, while not having as negative of an effective on the kidneys or stomach.

However, there are indications that they may increase the risk of circulatory disease in certain individuals. There have also been several COX-2 Inhibitors that were pulled from the market over the past five years, so it is important to discuss potential health risks and how long the drug has been available with your physician.


Analgesics are a type of pain medication, with acetaminphen, or Tylenol, being the most common. Analgesics are typically available over the counter and often serve as a first line of treatment against arthritis, in part because they can be effective at reducing arthritis pain, without major side-effects.

Analgesics can also be taken frequently throughout the day, although there is a slight risk of damage to the liver.

Also, especially as the disease progresses, Analgesics are not overly effective at treating arthritis pain.

Corticosteroid Therapy

Corticosteroids can be used to treat inflammation and are actually very effective at reducing arthritis. However, they also have a number of very serious side effects, such as increased risk of ulcers, diabetes, osteoporosis, and circulatory problems.

As a result of the dangerous side effects, Corticosteroids, which are usually injected into the affected joint, remain a very controversial treatment.

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