What Is the Best Painkiller for Osteoarthritis?

Ask a Doctor

There are so many different types of drugs to treat arthritis pain on the market, I don’t know how to choose. What pain medication is good for osteoarthritis?

Doctor’s Response

Initially, simple over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen are recommended, followed by NSAIDs (non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs).

Prescription NSAIDs may be needed if the over-the-counter medications are ineffective. A new generation of prescription NSAIDs are the COX-2 medicines (celecoxib [Celebrex]). The COX-2 drugs have fewer reported gastrointestinal side effects but similar results compared to the typical NSAIDs.

The antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta) is now approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for chronic musculoskeletal pain (joint and muscle pain). This medication works on neurotransmitters in the brain that control pain perception and has been shown to decrease chronic low back pain and pain caused by knee osteoarthritis.

For more information, please read our full medical article on osteoarthritis.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Klippel, John H., et al., eds. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. 13th ed. New York: Springer and Arthritis Foundation, 2008

Rennie, N.G., et al. "Presence of Gout Is Associated with Increased Osteoarthritis Prevalence and Severity." Arthritis and Rheumatism 63.10 Oct. 2011.