Medication for treating arthritic pain


·      In the short term: Osteoarthritis has little inflammation, so pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol*) may be effective. Rheumatoid arthritis generally has pain caused by inflammation, so aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) may be effective.

Caution is indicated for asprin taken  long term and ‘large’ quantities. Aspirin tends to cause gastro-intestinal irritation, bleeding and discomfort. Recent studies indicated that "anemia of arthritis" is really not due to the effects of the disease on the bone marrow or the blood, but is the result of gastric and intestinal blood loss from the irritation of drugs used in treatment of the disease. Plain aspirin is suspected as the chief culprit, and if any is prescribed, it must be buffered, coated, time release or otherwise treated and compounded to prevent micro-hemorrhage.


·      Biological response modifiers--These new drugs used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis reduce inflammation in the joints by blocking the reaction of a substance called tumor necrosis factor, an immune system protein involved in immune system response. These drugs include Enbrel and Remicade.


·      Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)--These are a class of drugs including aspirin and ibuprofen that are used to reduce pain and inflammation and may be used for both short-term and long-term relief in people with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. NSAIDs also include Celebrex, one of the so-called COX-2 inhibitors that block an enzyme known to cause an inflammatory response.


·      Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)--These are drugs used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis who have not responded to NSAIDs. Some of these include the new drug Arava and methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, penicillamine, and gold injections. These drugs are thought to influence and correct abnormalities of the immune system responsible for a disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment with these medications requires careful monitoring by the physician to avoid side effects.


·      Corticosteroids--These are hormones that are very effective in treating arthritis but cause many side effects. Corticosteroids can be taken by mouth or given by injection. Prednisone is the corticosteroid most often given by mouth to reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis. In both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, the doctor also may inject a corticosteroid into the affected joint to stop pain. Because frequent injections may cause damage to the cartilage, they should be done only once or twice a year.


·      Other products--Hyaluronic acid products like Hyalgan and Synvisc mimic a naturally occurring body substance that lubricates the knee joint and permits flexible joint movement without pain.




Anti-inflammatory drugs appear to cause side-effects and seem to gradually lose their usefulness in many patients after three months to a year, and then another drug needs to be used.  For example,  there is a good reason why many NSAIDs warn  “Do not use more than 10 days” and “For the temporary relief of minor arthritis pain.” 




Written by John Chow,  a practitioner of Chinese medicine, acupuncturist, masseur, healer and teacher of Tai Chi, Chi Kung, martial arts and spiritual paths in Melbourne, Australia.

For further information on this article, please contact John Chow  at


Legal caveat:-

The information provided above is for general reference only. Although the author(s) has attempted to be as thorough as possible in compiling the information in this article(s), no legal responsibility nor liability is accepted for any errors or omissions. The information is presented for educational purposes only. Please refer any medical matter to your doctor before acting on any health-related information.