Medications used to treat arthritis vary, depending on the type of arthritis. Commonly used medications include:
- Analgesics. These relieve pain, but have no effect on inflammation. Examples are acetominophen (Tylenol and others), tramadol (Ultram and others), and narcotics (Percocet, Oxycontin, vicodin and others).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some are sold over-the-counter: ibuprofen, naproxen, and others. Some are available by prescription only. Oral NSAIDs can cause stomach irritation; some may increase risk of heart attack or stroke. Some are available as creams or gels, which can be rubbed on joints.
- Counterirritants. Some topical preparations contain menthol or capsaicin, which may relieve pain by interfering with pain signals from the diseased joint.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). They may slow or stop the immune system from attacking its own joint tissue (e.g. methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine).
- Biologics. These are often used along with DMARDs. Biologic response are drugs that target protein molecules involved in the immune response (e.g. etanercept and infliximab).
- Corticosteroids. These reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system (e.g. prednisone, cortisone). They are taken orally or injected directly into the painful joint.
Physical therapy is helpful for some types of arthritis. Exercises can preserve function, improve range of motion, and strengthen muscles around diseased joints. Splints or braces are used in some cases. Weight loss will relieve stress on joints. Heating pads and cold packs may relieve pain. Asssistive devices, such as canes and walkers, can protect joints and improve the ability to perform daily tasks
Surgery may be an option when conservative treatments are insufficient for pain relief and preservation of function. Some surgical options include joint replacement. The damaged joint is replaced with an artificial joint. The most common replacements are hips and knees. Joint fusion is used for smaller joints. The two ends of the bones which form the joint are fused together, creating one rigid unit.