National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
How Is Osteoarthritis Treated? continued...
Massage: In this pain-relief approach, a
massage therapist will lightly stroke and/or knead the painful muscles. This
may increase blood flow and bring warmth to a stressed area. However,
arthritis-stressed joints are sensitive, so the therapist must be familiar with
the problems of the disease.
Medications to control pain
Doctors prescribe medicines to eliminate or reduce pain and to
improve functioning. Doctors consider a number of factors when choosing
medicines for their patients with osteoarthritis. These include the intensity
of pain, potential side effects of the medication, your medical history (other
health problems you have or are at risk for), and other medications you are
Because some medications can interact with one another and
certain health conditions put you at increased risk of drug side effects, it’s
important to discuss your medication, and health history with your doctor
before you start taking any new medication, and to see your doctor regularly
while you are taking medication. By working together, you and your doctor can
find the medication that best relieves your pain with the least risk of side
The following types of medicines are commonly used in treating
Acetaminophen: A medication commonly used to
relieve pain, acetaminophen (for example, Tylenol1) is available without
a prescription. It is often the first medication doctors recommend for
osteoarthritis patients because of its safety relative to some other drugs and
its effectiveness against pain.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs):
A large class of medications useful against both pain and inflammation, NSAIDs
are staples in arthritis treatment. A number of NSAIDs – ibuprofen (Advil,
Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ketoprofen (Orudis, Oruvail) – are
available over the counter. More than a dozen others, including a subclass of
NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors, are available only with a prescription.
All NSAIDs work similarly: by blocking substances called
prostaglandins that contribute to inflammation and pain. However, each NSAID is
a different chemical, and each has a slightly different effect on the
1 Brand names included in this booklet are provided as
examples only, and their inclusion does not mean that these products are
endorsed by the National Institutes of Health or any other Government agency.
Also, if a particular brand name is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply
that the product is unsatisfactory.