There is a wide range of over-the-counter products available to treat joint pain, but most of them rely on a small number of active ingredients, namely aspirin, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, says WebMD. These medications are widely available, affordable and have few side effects.
As well as oral medications, there are some over-the-counter supplements and creams that may help ease joint pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both popular with sufferers of joint pain, WebMD reports. They have no known major side effects, but because they are not regulated by the FDA, it is not possible to be sure of the content and quality of these supplements.
Another over-the-counter treatment for joint pain is a skin cream containing capsaicin, which is an extract from chili peppers. Research has not demonstrated a consistent benefit of these creams, but it is possible they can alleviate joint pain when applied to the skin, explains WebMD. Roughly half of all who use the creams report a mild stinging or burning sensation, but this usually disappears gradually over time.
In addition to over-the-counter pain relief, there are nonprescription treatments a person suffering from joint pain can try at home, says WebMD. Warm compresses applied to the affected joint a few times a week can alleviate pain and swelling, as well as improve a person's range of motion. Ice therapy after physical activity may also help.