Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage between your joints wears down and becomes thin. Cartilage is the protective cushioning that stops your bones rubbing on each other. If the cartilage wears down, the bones rub on each other, causing you pain and limiting your movement.
Treatment usually depends on which joints are affected and the how bad the pain is. It can include diet, exercise, hot or cold packs, over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines, physiotherapy, aids and devices, and surgery.
Types of osteoarthritis medicines
Different types of medicines can ease osteoarthritic pain. Some are tablets and capsules that you swallow. There are some you can rub on your skin. There are some that are injected into the joints.
The most common ones are:
- analgesics (pain relievers), such as paracetamol
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac gel and ibuprofen tablets.
Some people also have injections of corticosteroid (a type of steroid) into their joints to reduce inflammation.
Important information about osteoarthritis medication
All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, but most of the time they are not. The main concern with oral NSAIDs is a risk of gastrointestinal side effects such as stomach ulcers and bleeding.
Before taking any medicines, you may wish to ask your doctor or pharmacist:
- what are the side effects of your osteoarthritis medicines
- what are the benefits
- what to do if you miss a dose
- what to do if you experience side effects.
Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you feel unwell when taking your medicines. Do not stop or change your medicines without talking to your doctor.
Looking for more medicine information?
healthdirect’s medicines section allows you to search for medicines by brand name or active ingredient. It provides useful information about medicines such as their use, whether they are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and product recalls.
Last reviewed: February 2016