Arthritis Treatment Options

There are multiple options available that can help provide arthritis pain relief in your joints, including your knees, hips, back, hands, and other key areas. Relieving the pain may help you get on with your life and engage in the daily activities you enjoy.

The Right Treatment for Your Arthritis Pain

Here's an overview of some of the pain relief treatments commonly used to help with arthritis pain management. Remember, only you and your doctor can determine what medication(s) and other treatments are right for you, and you should always talk to your doctor before taking any medication or supplement.

Non-drug treatments
Medications
Other treatments

Non-drug Treatments

Besides your medications, there are other methods of OA pain relief you may wish to discuss with your doctor, including

  • Heat treatment (warm baths, heating pads and wraps, etc)1
  • Cold therapy (cold packs, ice massage, etc)1
  • Massage (with a therapist familiar with arthritis-stressed joints)1
  • Joint rest (bracing or splinting)1
  • Lifestyle changes can help remedy joint pain for some patients.1 For example, exercise can strengthen the muscles around a joint, making it more stable.1 Weight loss can also reduce pain by relieving pressure on joints1
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), using mild electric pulses on the skin over affected areas1

Medications

Two types of oral medications are often used by doctors to treat osteoarthritis pain

  • Analgesics ("an-al-GEE-sics") are a type of medication used to help manage arthritis by relieving the pain in the joints caused by this condition. "Pure" analgesics don't treat inflammation
    • The most commonly used pure analgesic is acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). It is usually used in “over-the-counter” (OTC) strength, meaning no prescription is needed1
    • For more severe pain, doctors may prescribe analgesics that also contain another type of pain medication, like codeine1
  • NSAIDs ("EN-sedz"), or "nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs," are the most commonly prescribed medication to relieve pain and reduce inflammation of arthritis.1 Approximately 112 million prescriptions for NSAIDs are dispensed annually in the US.2
    • Because NSAIDs are both analgesic and anti-inflammatory, they treat not just pain but also inflammation.1 NSAIDs can have significant side effects; you should avoid prolonged usage unless you are under the care of a doctor1
    • NSAIDs include commonly used ibuprofen and naproxen; they are available in both OTC (Advil, Aleve) and prescription strength
    • NSAIDs are also available for topical use

Other Treatments

Other medications and supplements may be prescribed to help manage arthritis pain. Some examples of these treatments include

  • Topical pain-relieving creams, rubs, and sprays1
  • Corticosteroids, either orally or by injection, used for short-term reduction of severe inflammation and pain1
  • Viscosupplements, injected into the knee to help lubricate the joint1
  • Oral supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate1

References:

  1. Osteoarthritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_info/Osteoarthritis/default.asp. Accessed May 22, 2014.
  2. Wiegand TJ. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent toxicity. Medscape website. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/816117-overview. Accessed May 27, 2014.