Pain medications are used to temporarily relieve knee arthritis pain.
- Over-the-counter pain medication – (analgesics), such as acetaminophen, can reduce pain, such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Advil), can relieve pain as well as the inflammation that causes pain.
- Prescription oral medication – When pain is not reduced by over-the-counter medications, physicians may recommend prescribed medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. They may also prescribe other medications, such as Celebrex (COX-2 inhibitors).
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) – These drugs have been shown to aid some patients with osteoarthritis who have moderate pain. Taking an overdose of acetaminophen can lead to liver damage.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) taken at the recommended doses, usually relieve osteoarthritis pain. Stronger NSAIDs are provided only by prescription.
NSAIDs can cause cardiovascular problems, stomach upset, bleeding problems, and kidney and liver damage. NSAIDs as gels, applied over the skin around the affected joint, have less side effects and may reduce pain just as well.
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta) – These drugs are normally used as an antidepressant, but it is also approved to treat chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis pain
- Topical medications – These medications come in both over-the-counter and prescription formulas. These gels or creams can be applied directly over the skin around the knee. In general, these topical analgesics are less likely than other oral medications to cause side effects, such as stomach upset.
Several new medications to treat knee arthritis are being explored and developed. Most pharmaceutical drugs, whether taken orally or injections, are produced to treat the arthritis and not reverse the process. Moreover, some people also use medical marijuana products and CBD (where they are legal), though a detailed research is needed in this area.