The Truth About Arthritis Pain Medication


If arthritis is compromising your quality of life, it’s helpful to understand arthritis pain medication. This blog describes some of the different arthritis pain medications that are available by prescription or over the counter.

Some commonly used arthritis pain medication include:

  1. Tylenol or other analgesics: Many of these painkillers are available without a prescription.
  2. Advil or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): An over-the-counter solution that targets pain and inflammation.
  3. Creams or ointments: These can help with irritation caused by arthritis.
  4. Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These are prescribed by your doctor to put a brake on the advancing of the disease.
  5. Biologic response modifiers: Another prescription option generated from a living organism in order to stimulate the body’s natural defenses to disease.
  6. Cortisone shots (corticosteroids): Cortisone simulates the natural hormone cortisol, which help calm inflammation.

Any medication used to treat arthritis pain will likely be prescribed by an orthopedic expert along with other treatments, such as physical therapy for arthritis.

Cortisone shots for arthritis

Cortisone shots are a common arthritis pain medication. The injections are administered into a targeted area in the body, often providing immediate relief that may last several months.

Despite the fact that cortisone can be quite effective, it is not a panacea for arthritis pain. An orthopedic specialist is likely going to recommend a regimen of physical therapy to create lasting benefits. Often the cortisone works to create a window in which the patient experiences reduced or no pain, allowing them to initiate a program of physical therapy that will help generate more lasting improvements.

Medicare or your insurance provider may only allow you to receive cortisone a certain number of times per year, so contact your insurer for details.

In cases where cortisone fails to achieve results or longer lasting relief is needed, gel injections — or hyaluronic acid supplements — may be recommended to target arthritis pain in a similar fashion to cortisone. Hyaluronic acid works like a naturally-occurring substance that lubricates and cushions the joints.

As with any type of arthritis pain medication, work with a fellowship-trained orthopedic doctor to determine an appropriate course of treatment.

What happens when medication fails

In cases where arthritis pain medication and physical therapy fail to adequately treat your problem and provide arthritis pain relief, your orthopedic specialist may recommend surgery, such as total joint replacement. A surgical procedure will likely only be considered after other, noninvasive treatments have been exhausted — very few patients end up going this route.