Treating Arthritis With MedicationsThere are a number of arthritis medications that can provide short-term pain relief. Some of these medicines are available without a prescription. For example, pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) may be effective at treating some types of arthritis that cause little inflammation. People with rheumatoid arthritis generally have pain caused by inflammation and often benefit from aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®). Over-the-counter pain medicines should not be used for more than ten days unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise.
Your healthcare provider may recommend several other medicines to treat inflammation or slow down joint damage. These medications for arthritis might include:
- Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
- Biologic response modifiers.
Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs are a class of drugs that include aspirin and ibuprofen, and are used to reduce pain and inflammation. These drugs may be used for both short-term and long-term pain relief. Some examples of NSAIDs used to treat arthritis include:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®)
- Naproxen (Naprosyn®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®, Anaprox®, Naprelan®)
- Diclofenac (Voltaren®, Cataflam®)
- Etodolac (Lodine®, Lodine® XL)
- Meloxicam (Mobic®)
- Indomethacin (Indocin®)
- Nabumetone (Relafen®).
Besides the drugs mentioned here, another example of an NSAIDs is celecoxib (Celebrex®). This medicine is a specific type of NSAID known as a COX-2 inhibitor. It works by blocking an enzyme known to cause an inflammatory response.
In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned people about the possible side effects of some NSAIDs -- both those sold with and without a prescription (see NSAIDs Warnings and Precautions). NSAIDs should also be used with caution in certain groups of people, including those with heart disease and those with certain types of arthritis. For example, in people with enteropathic arthritis, NSAIDs can make Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis worse. In people with psoriatic arthritis, skin symptoms of psoriasis may worsen during treatment with NSAIDs.
To find out whether you should use NSAIDs for your arthritis pain (and, if so, when you should use them), talk with your healthcare provider. You should also talk with your healthcare provider about using other pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®).