Arthritis Treatment
Medications, Drugs And Surgery

Arthritis Treatment Guide


Treating Arthritis


Do I See a Consultant?
What Medications are Prescribed for Treating Arthritis?
What About Surgery?
What Therapies are Available?

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Guide to Arthritis


Once you have received an arthritis diagnosis, the next step is finding the right treatment for your specific form of the disease. The treatment will depend not only on the form of arthritis you have but also what stage of progression it is at. It may take some time to find the correct treatment and even then your requirements may change over time. It is important to work with a doctor you are comfortable with, as treatment is based on an equal partnership. It is not just a matter of taking a few pills. For maximum results you will need to learn how to look after your own joints and adapt your lifestyle to ensure a pain-free existence as possible.

Do I See a Consultant?

If you have rheumatoid arthritis you will probably be referred to a rheumatologist who specializes in rheumatic diseases. Rheumatology nurses have specialized experience in looking after the physical, social and practical needs of people with arthritis. They can give injections, carry out blood tests and deal with many concerns in between appointments with the rheumatologist. People with more mechanical types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis are less likely to be referred to a specialist, unless eventually surgery is required. If surgery is required you will be referred to an orthopedic surgeon. See arthritis equipment for useful tools in making life with joint diseases easier.

Arthritis Medications/Drugs


Over the counter painkillers such as Tylenol, Paracetamol and aspirin can help relieve symptoms of arthritis, specifically pain, but they do not cure the arthritis itself. Never take more than the recommended dosage on the packet and talk to your doctor or pharmacist if in doubt.


These are medications used to reduce inflammation and give relief from joint swelling and pain. NSAIDs are available both over the counter and as prescriptions. Common brands include Motrin, Feldene, Naprosyn and Relafen. NSAIDs can cause side effects like diarrhea and indigestion. They also increase the risk of stomach bleeding so you may also be prescribed an anti-ulcer medication if taking NSAIDs for any period of time. Other recently introduced NSAIDS, called COX-2 inhibitors (Mobic and Celebrex) are said to be safer for the stomach. However, all NSAIDs, including COX-2, increase the risk of stroke in women (and men), so those with heart problems should avoid taking them. NSAIDs may not be necessary if DMARDS (see below) are prescribed.

Interesting note: Many branded ‘arthritis pills’ are simply repackaged aspirins or regular NSAIDs - for which manufacturers charge a premium. Do be sure to check out books on arthritis for alternative remedies and self-management advice.

More Powerful Drugs

Chronic arthritis may require stronger medication. Disease modifying and immuno-suppressive drugs (DMARDs) are often prescribed to people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. They act by reducing the immune systems attack on the joints and halting the progression of the disease. However they have to be carefully monitored because of possible side effects. DMARDs available on prescription include methotrexate (Matrex) and hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil). For more, read about rheumatoid arthritis medications.

Brand names Enbrel and Remicade, anti-TNFs are biologic drugs. Cimzia and Simponi are newer versions being tested but they are not appropriate for everyone. Prescribed for those with inflammatory arthritis, these drugs work by blocking the action of a chemical called Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) which is thought to play a roll in inflammation and tissue damage. As anti-TNFs are very expensive they are not prescribed very regularly.

Steroid (Corticosteroids) Injections
Used mainly for those with rheumatoid arthritis. Steroids such as prednisolone can be injected directly into an inflamed joint and can give instant relief during a painful flare up. If taken over a long period of time steroids can cause side effects. High dosages may cause osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain. Talk to your doctor about ensuring you receive the lowest dosage as possible.

If You are Taking Medication

Your doctor can carry out a blood test to check if a drug will be safe for you take. If you do take medication it is important to ask about the treatment. Be clear about the dosage, and how often you should take it. Ask what is the best time of day to take the medication, and if you should take it before or after a meal. Ask when you can expect the drug to take effect and if there are any possible side effects, what should you do if they occur. If you are trying for a baby, your doctor may tell you to stop taking your drugs a few months before conception. See preparing for pregnancy.

When is Surgery Necessary?

Surgery is usually the last resort as a treatment for arthritis. The majority of patients will never require it but those who do, find huge benefits in pain relief, increased mobility and reduction of stiffness. Some surgery is minor and may involve removal of fluid and damaged tissue, or removal of the cartilage lining so that the joint can be smoothed. Major surgery involves totally replacing a joint (arthroplasty), such as a knee (arthritis of the knee) or hip (see hip arthritis) with a prosthesis. Although recovery can take a long time the outcome is usually highly successful and patients can return to a full and active life. Due to the advancement in technology only about 10 to 15 percent of patients now require a joint replacement after 10 to 15 years.

What Therapies Can Help?

Working With An Occupational Therapist

An occupational therapist can help those who are experiencing difficulties carrying out every day tasks. They can visit the patient at home or at work and device methods for carrying out tasks in ways in which cause less pain. They can teach joint protection techniques, and provide lots of valuable practical tips.

Working With A Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy can be an important tool in the management of arthritis. A physiotherapist can device a personal plan which will help to reduce pain, improve movement and strengthen muscles.

See also: Natural Treatment for Arthritis

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For more on understanding your body, see the following:

Fibromyalgia Treatments
Arthritis of the Shoulder
Causes of Arthritis
Arthritis of the Hand

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