Skip to content

    Osteoarthritis Health Center

    Select An Article

    Arthritis Drug Overview

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    There are dozens of medications available with or without a prescription to treat the various forms of arthritis. Your doctor can help you choose what drugs are best for your particular disease.

    Topical Pain Relievers

    These topical drugs can help provide pain relief for people with arthritis that is in just a few joints, such as a hand, or for people whose pain isn't severe.

    Anti-inflammatory Painkillers (NSAIDs)

    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Almost everyone with arthritis has taken or is taking one of these drugs. Prescription doses can help curb joint inflammation.

    Other Pain-Relieving Arthritis Drugs

    Acetaminophen is available without a prescription and is a commonly used pain reliever for people with arthritis. Narcotic pain relievers are available by prescription only and may be used to help with more severe pain, but they don't relieve joint inflammation. Often, they are combined with acetaminophen or an NSAID to enhance their effects. Narcotic drugs can be habit-forming, and they can cause constipation, urinary problems, and sedation.

    Your doctor may recommend the use of antidepressants to help treat chronic pain whether you have depression or not. It is not exactly clear how antidepressants help curb pain, but an antidepressant effect on brain chemicals is believed to play a role. Side effects may range from drowsiness to dry mouth and blurred vision. Rarely, these drugs can lead to mood changes or suicidal thoughts.

    Arthritis and Steroids

    Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can treat many forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other forms of inflammation such as vasculitis.

    Although effective, steroids can have many side effects, especially when taken as a pill and used long term. Often, doctors try to avoid these problems by injecting the steroid into the affected joint or trying other medications in combination to keep the dose of steroids as low as possible.

    Hyaluronan Injections

    There are several versions of hyaluronan injections, also called viscosupplementation, that are used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. They are injected directly into the joint. Some studies have shown some benefit for reducing pain for periods of up to six months, but others have shown more limited results.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    elderly hands
    Even with arthritis pain.
    woman exercising
    Here are 7 easy tips.
     
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
    chronic pain
    Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
     
    Keep Joints Healthy
    SLIDESHOW
    Chronic Pain Healthcheck
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    close up of man with gut
    Article
    man knee support
    Article
     
    woman with cold compress
    QUIZ
    Man doing tai chi
    Article
     
    hand gripping green rubber ball
    Slideshow
    person walking with assistance
    Slideshow