Which Drugs Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain?

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 13, 2023
2 min read

There are many medications you and your doctor could consider using to treat your RA pain.

The main type are NSAIDs, which stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They manage pain, swelling, and stiffness.

NSAIDs include:

NSAIDS have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly in higher doses. Another drawback is that these drugs can upset your stomach or cause ulcers or bleeding in the stomach or intestines. Celecoxib is less likely to cause ulcers and stomach or intestinal bleeding.

If you have kidney failure or heart failure, your doctor will keep a close watch on how you’re doing if you take NSAIDs.

This 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.

These are often called steroids. They're powerful drugs that tame inflammation. They're 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're best used for a short time to control flares. This helps you 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.