Treatment for osteoarthritis

19 November 2015

There isn’t a treatment that cures osteoarthritis, but there are medicines that can make life more comfortable.



Painkillers for osteoarthritis

If you’re in pain, your GP may recommend that you try paracetamol. You can buy this over the counter in pharmacies and supermarkets, without a prescription. Check with your doctor about how much to take, and don’t take more than you should. It’s usually best to take paracetamol regularly rather than waiting until you are in a lot of pain.

Find out more about over-the-counter painkillers

NSAID pills for osteoarthritis

If paracetamol isn’t helping enough, your doctor may prescribe something stronger. This may be a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, or if you need a stronger NSAID, naproxen, or a COX-2 inhibitor, such as celecoxib.

If your doctor prescribes pills they’ll probably also prescribe a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) for you to take with them. NSAIDs can damage the lining of your stomach – PPIs help reduce this risk.

NSAID creams for osteoarthritis

You may not need to take pills, depending on your circumstances, as some NSAIDs come as creams, that you can put directly onto the painful joints.

If NSAID creams don’t ease the pain your GP may suggest using capsaicin cream. This works by stopping the pain messages coming from the affected joint.

Intra-articular injection for osteoarthritis

If these treatments don’t help reduce your pain, your doctor may suggest that you have an intra-articular injection. This means that corticosteroid medicine is injected into the affected joint. Corticosteroids reduce swelling and pain.

Joint replacement surgery for osteoarthritis

Not everyone needs surgery for osteoarthritis, but if you do need surgery it can make a big difference to your life and your pain levels. If your GP or specialist doesn’t suggest surgery, it’s worth asking whether it would be right for you.

To find out more about hip replacement surgery, type ‘Hip replacements’ into the search box on this website or go to www.saga.co.uk/magazine/health-wellbeing/surgery/hip-replacements-what-you-need-to-know

Find out more about knee replacement surgery

For more information about arthritis, visit www.arthritisresearchuk.org

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