This sheet gives you a basic idea about each of the medicines below. Only the most common side effects are listed. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special steps. Use each of these medicines the way your doctor tells you to. Follow the advice you are given. If you have questions, call your doctor.
There are many medicines to treat the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis (OA). OA is not the same from one person to the next. It may take some time to find the right medicines that give you the least number of problems.
NSAIDs help to decrease inflammation, swelling, and joint pain. Many are available without a prescription. You may be given a prescription for a higher dose. Some may also be available as creams or patches. They can be placed on skin over the area.
Severe allergic reaction, such as
hives, problems breathing, or swelling around the eyes
Risk of bleeding
Always take NSAIDs with food. This will decrease the risk of stomach upset. Do not drink alcohol while taking NSAIDs, it causes extra stress on the liver. If you are taking NSAIDs beware of any other medicine you are taking. Avoid taking other medicine that also has NSAIDs.
NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious problems. This includes a higher risk of a
stroke. This risk is important for those who already have heart disease or risk factors like high blood pressure.
Cyclooxygenase-2 or COX-2 Inhibitors
COX-2 inhibitors work like NSAIDs. They help with inflammation, swelling, and joint pain. They cause less stomach irritation than NSAIDs.
Drinking alcohol or taking NSAIDs while you are using a COX-2 inhibitor can raise your risk of side effects.
Here are some side effects:
Stomach problems, such as stomach upset and ulcers
Severe allergic reaction, such as hives, problems breathing, or swelling around the eyes
Worsening of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure,
heart failure, or kidney disease
COX-2 inhibitors may cause a higher risk of heart problems. This can include a higher risk of
stroke. Talk to your doctor about medicine options if you already have heart disease or risk factors.
If you have severe pain from OA, your doctor may prescribe opioids to relieve pain. They work well, but may cause dependence. Your doctor will check in with you often while you are using them.
Some opioids may have acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is also a common ingredient in many over the counter medicines. You may be at risk for taking high doses of acetaminophen. High doses of it can harm your liver. Read the ingredient list on labels. Make sure you are not taking too much acetaminophen.
Here are some side effects:
Feeling lightheaded, sleepy, having blurred vision, or a change in thinking clearly
Acetaminophen can help relieve pain from OA. Do not take a larger dose than your doctor tells you to. Do not drink alcohol if you take it every day. If you take it in high doses or with alcohol, it can harm your liver.
Side effects are rare. A few people may have an allergic reaction. If you get a rash, swelling, or have problems breathing, then stop taking it and get help.
Acetaminophen should be the first option in most people with OA.
Common brand names include:
Capsaicin cream is rubbed on the skin of a joint to relieve pain and inflammation.
It is made from the active part of hot chile peppers. Some people wear rubber gloves when they put it on. If you don’t, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after you use it. Do not get the cream near your eyes. It will burn and sting. If you do get some in your eyes, flush them well with cool water.
You may have burning, stinging, or a warm feeling when you first put it on