for Arthritis

Managing arthritis
with medication

There are many different medications that can help manage pain caused by arthritis. Your family doctor and pharmacist will be able to assist you in choosing which medications may work for you.


Types of Arthritis Medications

Analgesics (pain killers)

Analgesics include pain-relieving pills that you can buy without a prescription (acetaminophen/Tylenol®). Stronger pain pills such as narcotics (for example, those containing codeine, morphine or oxycodone) require a prescription from your doctor. As with any medication, it’s important to follow the dosing instructions.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

NSAIDS include acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin®), ibuprofen (Advil®/Motrin®), naproxen (Aleve®), and diclofenac (Voltaren®). NSAIDs reduce pain, fever and inflammation.

Some NSAIDs can be bought without a prescription, while others need a prescription. There are also creams with NSAID medication that can be rubbed onto the skin.

Your physician may order a combination of NSAIDs and other pain-relieving medications for your arthritis. As with any medication, it’s important to follow the dosing instructions.

Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDS)

DMARDs (examples: Methotrexate®, Plaquenil®, Salazopyrin®) work by acting on the immune system to slow down inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. This, in turn, slows down damage to the joints. DMARD medications are usually prescribed by rheumatologists.


Biologics (examples: Enbrel®, Humira®, Remicade®) decrease inflammation by acting on the immune system. These are used for inflammatory arthritis conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and act quickly to decrease pain and swelling. These medications slow down joint damage. Biologic medications are usually prescribed by rheumatologists.


Glucosamine, Chondrontin, MSM and Devil’s Claw are supplements that may be taken for arthritis. Studies on supplements have mixed results, with some showing no improvement in symptoms, while others showing some benefits. Before taking supplements, you must speak with your family doctor first to be sure that it does not interact with other medications that you are taking.

Need more information about Arthritis?

Please refer to the Arthritis Society website or the Alberta Rheumatology website for further information on medications used to treat arthritis.