Overview of Common Arthritis Medications

July 2024

Arthritis is a term that encompasses over 120 different conditions characterised by joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Managing arthritis often requires a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.

This article aims to help you understand the various types of medications available for arthritis, how they work, and what you need to consider when using them.

Types of Arthritis Medications

#1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are commonly used to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. They work by blocking enzymes that cause inflammation and pain in the body. Common over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen. Prescription NSAIDs include celecoxib (Celebrex).


  • Reduces pain and swelling.
  • Improves mobility.


  • Long-term use can cause stomach issues, such as ulcers and bleeding.
  • May increase the risk of heart disease in some people.

Read our free infosheet for more information, Arthritis and Medicines

#2. Analgesics (Pain Relievers)

Analgesics are pain relievers that do not target inflammation. They are often used for people who cannot take NSAIDs. Common examples include paracetamol, and prescription medications like tramadol.


  • Effective for pain relief without the stomach issues associated with NSAIDs.


  • Some can cause liver damage if taken in high doses.
  • Some prescription analgesics can be habit-forming.

#3. Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that mimic the effects of hormones your body naturally produces in the adrenal glands. They are used for short-term relief of severe arthritis symptoms.


  • Quickly reduces inflammation and pain.
  • Can be taken orally or injected directly into the affected joint.


  • Long-term use can lead to side effects like weight gain, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
  • Not ideal for chronic, long-term management due to potential side effects.


#4. Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs are a class of medications that slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis by suppressing the immune system. DMARDs are prescribed by a Rheumatologist, which is an arthritis specialist. Common DMARDs include methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil).


  • Helps to prevent joint damage and maintain function.
  • Slows the progression of the disease.


  • May take several weeks to months to see benefits.
  • Requires regular monitoring for potential side effects, such as liver damage and lowered blood cell counts.

#5. Biologic Response Modifiers (Biologics)

Biologics are a newer class of DMARDs that target specific components of the immune system. Examples include etanercept (Enbrel) and adalimumab (Humira). They are typically used when traditional DMARDs are not effective.


  • Targets specific parts of the immune system to reduce inflammation.
  • Can be very effective for treating certain types of arthritis.


  • Expensive and may require injections or infusions.
  • Increases the risk of infections due to immune system suppression.

For more information on DMARDs and Biologics, please register to watch our upcoming webinar with Rheumatologist, Dr Helen Benham on 26th August.

Tips for Managing Arthritis Medications

#1. Consult with Your Healthcare Provider:

Always discuss your symptoms and medication options with your doctor or specialist. They can help you determine the best medication or combination of medications for your specific type of arthritis and overall health.

#2. Understand Potential Side Effects

Be aware of the potential side effects of your medications and report any unusual symptoms to your doctor or specialist as spoon as possible.

#3. Take Medications as Prescribed

Follow your doctor's instructions for taking your medications, including dosage and timing. Do not adjust your dose or stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor.

#4. Monitor Your Health

Regular check-ups and blood tests may be necessary to monitor the effectiveness and side effects of your medication.

#5. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

A balanced diet, regular exercise, and weight management may improve the effectiveness of your medication as well as your arthritis symptoms and quality of life.

Managing arthritis with medication involves understanding the various options available and working closely with your healthcare provider to find the most effective treatment plan.

By staying informed and proactive, you can effectively manage your arthritis symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.

For more information, please view our webinar recordings where we delve deeper in Arthritis Medications.

How can we help? 


Always talk to your doctor and/or health professional before starting an exercise program. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can suggest safe exercises and make sure you are doing your exercises correctly.