Skip to content

    Osteoarthritis Health Center

    Font Size

    Arthritis Pain Relief: Risks and Benefits

    Over-the-Counter Pain Medications continued...

    In addition, NSAIDs block the production of substances that line and protect the stomach from acids; when taken long term, some NSAID users can experience side effects related to stomach irritation and bleeding. Your doctor may recommend you take a medication such as esomeprazole (Nexium), famotidine (Pepcid), omeprazole (Prilosec),pantoprazole (Protonix), or ranitidine (Zantac) to protect your stomach. You’re at particular risk for side effects if you’re over age 75, take high doses of NSAIDs, take them over an extended period of time, or are on medications to prevent blood clots.


    Other OTC Pain Relievers

    In addition to medications, there are supplements and creams that you can purchase over the counter that may also alleviate arthritis pain.

    Among the most popular supplements used by people with osteoarthritis are glucosamine and chondroitin. In those with moderate to severe knee pain from osteoarthritis, the combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may be effective in providing pain relief, although medical studies have not shown clear proof that they are helpful in everyone.

    There do not seem to be any major side effects from glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, but because they are supplements, they are not regulated by the FDA the same way as drugs. That means that there is no way to be sure of the content and quality of supplements sold in stores.

    Skin creams made from capsaicin, an extract from chili peppers, may help relieve mild arthritis pain when applied to the skin, although these creams have not shown consistent benefit in medical studies. They cause a mild stinging or burning sensation in about half of people using them, which usually fades over time.

    Applying ice or warm compresses to the affected joint a few times per week may also improve pain, swelling, and range of motion. Ice therapy may also be helpful immediately after activities such as exercise.


    Prescription Drugs: NSAIDs

    In addition to over-the-counter NSAID medications, you can also ask your doctor for prescription NSAIDs to treat arthritis pain and inflammation. Some of these are merely stronger versions of the NSAIDs you can buy over the counter, like prescription-strength ibuprofen. Prescription NSAIDs may also be available in topical and injectable forms. Besides ibuprofen and naproxen, other examples of prescription NSAIDs include diclofenac (Cambia, Cataflam, Voltaren), etodolac (Lodine), meloxicam (Mobic), and piroxicam (Feldene).

    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
    Chronic Pain Healthcheck
    close up of man with gut
    man knee support
    woman with cold compress
    Man doing tai chi
    hand gripping green rubber ball
    person walking with assistance