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Which Drugs Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain?

When you have rheumatoid arthritis, you need to know how to treat the pain.

There are many medications you and your doctor could consider. The main type are “NSAIDs,” which stands for “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.” They are good at managing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

NSAIDs include:

The main drawback is that these drugs can upset your stomach or cause ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestines. If you have kidney failure or heart failure, your doctor will keep a close watch on how you’re doing if you take NSAIDs.

Celecoxib is less likely to cause ulcers and stomach or intestinal bleeding.


Acetaminophen is in many prescription and over-the-counter medicines, including Tylenol. When taken as directed, it has few side effects in most people. One exception is people with liver disease, who can take acetaminophen only if their doctor watches their health closely.


Corticosteroids, often called steroids, are powerful drugs that tame inflammation. These are different from “anabolic” steroids that build up muscles.

For RA, their benefit is that they suppress the overactive immune system, which curbs symptoms.

Corticosteroids act throughout the body, not just on the immune system. So they are best used for a short time to control flares. This helps avoid their side effects.

If you have severe rheumatoid arthritis, you may need to take steroids for a long time. Your doctor will watch out for potential side effects, such as being more likely to get an infection, higher blood sugar, or bone thinning.

Corticosteroids can sometimes be injected directly into joints affected by RA. This is a good way to get the benefits of the drug with fewer side effects.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 10, 2014

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