What types of treatments are available for osteoarthritis?
There are over-the-counter and prescription medications used to relieve the pain stemming from osteoarthritis. There are several alternative therapies for osteoarthritis, some used to slow the progression of the disease, and others used as painkillers.
Over-the-counter treatments for pain relief
Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) is usually a good first
choice for relieving arthritis pain. It causes few side effects, and studies have shown it
relieves arthritic pain nearly as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
NSAIDs, which include aspirin as
well as ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin IB®), and naproxen (Aleve®) reduce joint pain but can cause
gastrointestinal side effects in some people, such as stomach upset and stomach bleeding.
Creams and lotions containing capsaicin (Zostrix-HP®) can also relieve the pain of osteoarthritis. You rub them on affected joints three to four times daily. These products usually are less effective than medicines you take by mouth, but may cause fewer side effects.
Prescription drugs can treat the symptoms of pain and stiffness when over-the-counter
medicines aren't effective. Prescription strength NSAIDs are usually the first treatment choice
for people with osteoarthritis. There are prescription strength ibuprofen (Motrin®), naproxen (Naprosyn®) and ketoprofen (Orudis®) as well as
drugs such as diclofenac (Voltaren®) and oxaprozin (Daypro®).
Another class of drugs known as COX-2 (cyclooxygenase type 2) inhibitors, may cause fewer stomach side effects than other NSAIDs, which includes celecoxib (Celebrex®). There is a warning in place regarding cardiovascular risks with Celebrex®, so doctors should prescribe the lowest possible dose.
In cases where osteoarthritis causes severe pain, strong pain medicines including morphine or oxycodone can be prescribed for relief.
Other alternative therapies
Glucosamine and chondroitin are
compounds similar to those found in the joints of healthy people. When taken as dietary
supplements, alone or in combination, they are reported to decrease pain and increase joint
movement in people with osteoarthritis.
A recent study found that glucosamine may slow the progression of osteoarthritis. People who used glucosamine regularly for 1 to 3 years had little to no additional joint damage as compared to those people taking placebo (an inactive treatment). Glucosamine also reduced the pain and physical limitations caused by osteoarthritis. However, glucosamine did not seem to improve joint stiffness.
SAM-e (S-Adenosylmethionine) is another dietary supplement that's used for osteoarthritis. In several small studies it worked as well as ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin IB®) in relieving osteoarthritis pain. Another dietary supplement, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), may also relieve the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis. MSM is an organic form of sulfur. There isn't proof that it's effective in treating arthritis or any medical condition.
Some people have found other alternatives for relief of arthritis pain using magnets, copper jewelry, and acupuncture.
If you're looking for more specific answers to specific questions, ask a Walgreens pharmacist here.