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NSAIDs and Arthritis

NSAIDs and Arthritis

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are short-term pain relievers that can be used to treat arthritis. We recently spoke with HOI orthopedic surgeon, Travis Scudday, MD to get his expertise on NSAIDs and how they are used to reduce pain and inflammation.

Q: Are NSAIDs taken for pain or as a way to preserve cartilage?
A: NSAIDS are commonly used for arthritic pain control. Depending on the formulation, they last anywhere from four to 24 hours. The class of medication works on the same cellular receptor and interferes with the same pathway involved in inflammation and pain, COX-1 and COX-2. This pathway is involved in many inflammatory and allergenic problems.

Q: Is the long-term benefit of NSAIDs living without pain?
A: NSAIDS are a short-term pain reliever. There is no evidence that they will either slow or reverse the progression of arthritis. Long term NSAID use can be dangerous, leading to ulcers or kidney disease.

Q: Since NSAIDs are a common way for people with osteoarthritis to reduce pain levels – what can they do instead?
A: Weight loss and physical therapy are beneficial interventions in early stage, mild arthritis. Interventions such as NSAIDs and injections are short-term pain-relieving options that do not alter the long-term outcomes such as the need for a joint replacement.

Q: Have your suggestions to patients for pain relief changed at all?
A: My suggestions have not changed. Short term judicious use of NSAIDs as a pain and inflammation reliever is well documented. I will continue to prescribe NSAIDs as a first line agent for arthritic pain knowing that it will not reverse or delay the long-term effects of arthritis. The safe use of NSAIDs is important and worth a discussion between the patient and the prescribing physician.

For more information on the study referenced in this post, please visit: