Types of Osteoarthritis Medications and Treatments

Types of Osteoarthritis Medications and Treatments

Types of Osteoarthritis Medications and Treatments

Osteoarthritis medications are drugs used to treat osteoarthritis, a painful joint condition. They relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent complications, but cannot cure the disease.

The most commonly used medications for osteoarthritis are:

  • Opioid and non-opioid painkillers (analgesics)
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids

Types of Osteoarthritis Medications

The different medications for osteoarthritis include:

  • Analgesics
  • NSAIDs
  • NSAID/calcium channel blocker combination
  • Corticosteroids
  • Muscle relaxants
  • SNRI antidepressants
  • Miscellaneous medications
  • Dietary supplements

How Osteoarthritis Medications Work and Side Effects


Analgesics provide pain relief, but do not affect swelling or inflammation. They can be opioid or non-opioid medications. Some non-opioid medications are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. Opioid analgesics are stronger but carry a high risk for addiction.

Analgesics used for osteoarthritis include:

  • Non-opioid drugs such as acetaminophen
  • Opioid drugs such as tramadol hydrochloride and oxycodone hydrochloride
  • Other medications like capsaicin


NSAIDs block inflammatory chemicals, reducing swelling, inflammation, and pain. However, they do not prevent disease progression or joint damage.

NSAIDs used for osteoarthritis include:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Ketoprofen
  • Piroxicam
  • Meloxicam
  • Diclofenac sodium
  • Celecoxib
  • Naproxen sodium
  • NSAID/calcium channel blocker combinations

The FDA-approved combination for osteoarthritis patients with hypertension is celecoxib/amlodipine besylate.

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Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that can be taken as tablets or injected into the joints. Injections provide pain relief for up to 12 weeks.

Corticosteroids used for osteoarthritis include:

  • Triamcinolone acetonide extended-release injectable solution
  • Triamcinolone acetonide injectable solution
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Betamethasone acetate

Muscle Relaxers

Muscle relaxers inhibit nerve signals to reduce pain-spasm reactions in the muscles. They can help with diffuse and chronic pain from osteoarthritis.

Muscle relaxants used for osteoarthritis include:

  • Carisoprodol
  • Dantrolene sodium
  • Baclofen

SNRI Antidepressants

SNRI antidepressants increase hormone levels in the brain to reduce chronic pain from osteoarthritis.

The FDA-approved SNRI medication for chronic musculoskeletal pain is duloxetine hydrochloride.

Miscellaneous Medications

Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant that can be injected into the knee joints to reduce pain. It is available as Euflexxa, Hyalgan, and Orthovisc.

Medications to prevent bone loss from osteoporosis include calcium supplements, vitamin D, and estrogen for women going through menopause.

Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and turmeric may help with osteoarthritis pain, but their benefits are not well-established and they are not regulated by the FDA. Consult with a doctor before taking such supplements.

Warnings and Precautions

  • Visit our medication section for more information about each drug.
  • If your prescription medication is not listed, consult with your healthcare provider and pharmacist.
  • Discuss all the drugs you take with your doctor to understand their effects, side effects, and interactions.
  • Do not stop taking medication or change your dose without consulting with your doctor.


What is the Best Treatment for Osteoarthritis?

Effective treatment for osteoarthritis may involve lifestyle modifications, medications, and other therapies. Weight reduction and physical activity are important. Surgical procedures may be necessary for severe cases of osteoarthritis.

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10 treatments for osteoarthritis include:

  1. Medications
  2. Physical and occupational therapy
  3. Assistive devices
  4. Joint injections
  5. Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS)
  6. Surgical therapies for joint repair, fusion, or replacement
  7. Investigational treatments like stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma injections to promote cartilage growth

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease in which the cartilage between bones breaks down, causing joint inflammation and pain. It is the most common type of arthritis and primarily affects weight-bearing joints like the hips, spine, lower back, knees, and feet.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, redness, warmth, swelling, creaking, reduced range of motion, muscle weakness, and bone spur development.

Osteoarthritis Causes and Risk Factors

Osteoarthritis is more likely to affect women and is associated with advancing age, excess weight, weak muscles, genetics, hormonal changes in menopause, repetitive use, joint injury, joint infections, congenital conditions, and other joint disorders.


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