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What over-the-counter medications treat arthritis effectively?

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Quick Answer

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications that manage the symptoms of arthritis effectively include oral and topical analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs and supplements, states WebMD. Although these medications can be purchased without a prescription, arthritic patients are recommended to discuss with their physicians concerning the most suitable treatment options for their condition.

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Full Answer

Arthritis is a painful inflammation and stiffness of one or more joints in the body. Among the various types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form, notes Healthline. As of 2015, a definite cure for this condition remains unknown. Modern medications for osteoarthritis are designed to ease physical discomfort and swelling in the joints that are characteristic symptoms of the disease.

Analgesics are nonnarcotic OTC pain relievers that alleviate mild to moderate pain by inhibiting pain signals produced in the body. The majority of doctors initially advise taking acetaminophen, sold under the brand name Tylenol, for osteoarthritic pain. Patients should limit their intake to 3,000 milligrams per day, suggests the United States National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus.

Topical analgesics in the form of creams, gels, ointments and salves also effectively treat mild pain for less severe osteoarthritis. The active ingredients in these products include capsaicin, camphor, menthol, eucalyptus oil and salicylates, which are sold under the brand names Flexall, Icy Hot, BenGay, Aspercreme and ArthriCare.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, work by simultaneously treating pain and inhibiting chemical substances that trigger inflammatory reactions in the joints. These medications are the foremost choice for patients with osteoarthritis. Active ingredients include aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen, which are sold under the non-prescription brand names Bayer, St. Joseph Aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Aleve and Anacin.

Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are also known to minimize joint swelling. These OTC products also provide relief from moderate to intense osteoarthritic pain.

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