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Analgesics for Arthritis Pain

For anyone suffering from arthritis pain, finding the best way to receive some relief is always the answer. One of the most popular ways in which to receive some relief from arthritis pain is by way of analgesics.

What are analgesics?

Analgesics are medicines used to relieve pain. These medications are often used for a variety of different illnesses and conditions from headaches to pain associated with arthritis. Analgesics are divided to five groups separated by the way in which they are used and the way they relate to the different types of pain. Before a physician prescribes an analgesic, he or she will look at several factors such as the cause of the pain and how severe the pain is affecting the individual.

Types of analgesics

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

The most used analgesics for arthritis pain are in the group known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also referred to as NSAID’s. These medications can be purchased without a prescription and relieve pain as well as help with reducing inflammation and reducing fever. The most common include Motrin, Aleve, and Aspirin.

Tylenol may be an analgesic but it does not help with inflammation and therefore cannot be included in this group.


Opiods are narcotics that work on relieving arthritis pain that is severe. This type of analgesics must be prescribed by a physician and can be addicting. The most commonly used opiods for arthritis pain include oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine. This type of analgesic is only used when milder forms as mentioned above are not working to relieve the pain.


Corticosteroids are medications used to reduce inflammation and are not pain medicines. However, they can reduce pain by reducing swelling that in some cases can be part of the cause of the arthritis pain. In many cases, cortisone shots are given to those with inflammation in the joints to help reduce swelling along with Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs to help with pain.

Neurological Analgesia

This type of analgesic is often used for psychiatric conditions or neurological problems. The most common of these analgesics include the anticonvulsant gabapentin known as neurontin or the antidepressant amitriptyline known as Elavil.

Anesthetic Nerve Blockade

This type of analgesic is only used with it is necessary to block a nerve. This is normally given in the way of an injection directly into the nerve branch to relief pain in a larger portion of the body.

How do analgesics work to relief arthritis pain?

Pain can be caused from injuries or inflammation, which is swelling and starts at the cells. These cells release messengers via chemicals to other cells known as pain receptors. These pain receptors send messages to the brain, which decodes the messages, and we feel pain. Analgesics work in one of two ways, which includes stopping the brain from decoding the message into pain or by stopping the messages from going to the brain.

Side effects of analgesics

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

The side effects most commonly associated with Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness


The side effects most commonly associated with Opioids include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Physical dependence
  • Constipation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Tolerance
  • Addiction


The side effects most commonly associated with short-term usage of oral Corticosteroids include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Weight gain
  • Larger appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headache

The side effects most commonly associated with long-term usage of oral Corticosteroids include:

  • Elevations in cholesterol levels
  • Weight gain
  • Weakened immune system

Research on analgesics

One study performed in 1974 with an article published by E. C. Huskisson reported that experiments were carried out providing one dose of “simple analgesics” was given to individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. The experiments concluded that the most effective analgesics in the tests were codis, distalgesic, and aspirin. (1)

Research is being performed at this time with the title “Optimizing Safety of Analgesic Use Among Patients with Arthritis” The aim of the research being conducted by Solomon DH, Rassen JA, Glynn RJ, et al includes estimating the incidence rates as well as the risk of adverse issues for the most commonly analgesics by those with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The analyses will be conducted with a large group of Medicare and some individuals that are eligible to receive Medicaid. They group will release two manuscripts and a stakeholder report which will include estimates of the risk of side effects that are associated with the various analgesics. (2)

The latest report from the Journal of Clinical Oncology on May 9, 2011 concluded that the high usage of acetaminophen was involved with an increase risk of incident hematologic malignancies. The patients involved in the study were 64,839 women and men between the ages of 50 to 76. The models used in the research were adjusted due to education, race, age, sex, smoking, self related health, migraines, arthritis, headaches, chronic musculoskeletal pain, family history of leukemia, fatigue, and family history of lymphoma. The results showed that those use high doses of acetaminophen are at an increased risk of developing blood cancers. (3)

Acetaminophen is one of the most common and most sold over the counter medication for pain relief known as Tylenol. Prior research showed that by using aspirin might decrease the odds of a person dying from colon cancer but showed an increase of a risk of bleeding ulcers. Emily White of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who worked on the new research, stated, “Prior to this study there was very little evidence that aspirin reduces your risk of hematological cancers.”

“A person who is age 50 or older has about a one-percent risk in ten years of getting one of these cancers,” and Emily White went on to say, “Our study suggests that if you use acetaminophen at least four times a week for at least four years, that would increase the risk to about two percent.”

1) Simple Analgesics for Arthritis; E. C. Huskisson
2) Effective Health Care Program
3) American Society of Clinical Oncology

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About Anita Johnston

This post was written by on Thursday, May 19, 2011. This author has written 8 posts on this blog and has 1533 total posts views.

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One comment

  1. Well done atrcile that. I’ll make sure to use it wisely.

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