Nonprescription Medicines for Osteoarthritis - Topic Overview
Medicines that you can buy without a prescription can be
very useful in relieving the pain of mild or moderate
Try acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) first.
Regular use of acetaminophen can provide relief of pain caused by
osteoarthritis. Doctors may advise people who take acetaminophen on a regular
basis to limit alcohol consumption.
Aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen
(nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs) are
also good pain relievers, especially if you are not bothered by stomach
problems. Talk to your doctor to
determine the best dose of NSAIDs for your symptoms. Also consult your doctor
before use if you have had stomach ulcers, liver disease, kidney disease, heart
failure, or if you will be taking NSAIDs daily for more than 6 months.
People younger than age 20 should not take aspirin
because of the risk of Reye syndrome (a central nervous system complication in
Capsaicin (Zostrix), available without a prescription,
is a pain reliever that comes in a cream and is applied directly to the skin
(topical analgesic). It has been found to relieve joint pain of osteoarthritis
in some people when rubbed into the skin over affected joints.1 To be beneficial, the cream must be applied 3 or 4 times a
day. And the effects may not be seen for several weeks. The main ingredient in
capsaicin is an extract from hot peppers. It appears to have no serious side
effects. But some people may be allergic or sensitive to capsaicin. The first time you use
this topical cream, apply it to just a small area of skin to ensure there is no
allergic reaction. Even those who are not allergic may note a burning
sensation. Some people may not be able to tolerate the discomfort of capsaicin.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are dietary supplements that are based
primarily on components of natural
cartilage (the cushion between bones in a joint). Many
people take the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, for
osteoarthritis. Some people believe they help. But an analysis of studies
not show that these supplements slow joint destruction or relieve pain.2 The supplements are safe for most people, but they cost money
and may not help you. Talk to your doctor if you are considering glucosamine or