Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs reduce inflammation, joint swelling and stiffness. They are often used to treat inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis. They can also relieve pain that is not controlled by analgesics alone. Some NSAIDs are available without a prescription, while others must be prescribed by a doctor.
Types: There are many different types of NSAIDs available, such as naproxen and ibuprofen. There is a certain group of NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors that are slightly less likely to cause stomach problems.
Effects: NSAIDs stop the body producing substances (prostaglandins) that cause inflammation. This reduces symptoms such as pain and swelling. NSAIDs do not cure or have a long-term effect on your arthritis.
How are they used: Some conditions can be effectively controlled by using NSAIDs only when needed. Other conditions may require more regular use of NSAIDs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the best way to take NSAIDs for your condition and how to reduce the dose of NSAIDs if your pain has eased.
Risks: Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking NSAIDs as they may cause serious side effects. If you have problems with your blood pressure, kidneys or heart then the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure may be increased in a small number of people. One of the most serious side effects of NSAIDs is bleeding of the stomach and upper intestine. Signs of bleeding include stomach pain, blood in your stools (or dark stools) and coffee-coloured vomit. You should see your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these signs while taking NSAIDs. Even though some NSAIDs are available without prescription, your doctor can advise which of the NSAIDs and dosage are best for you.
For more detailed information on NSAIDs, including side-effects and precautions click here.
Important medicine tips
- Understand why you are taking the medicine and what the possible side effects are. Ask your pharmacist for the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine.
- Always read all medicine labels and take your medicines as directed. If you have any questions check with your doctor or pharmacist.
- Keep a personal record of all your medicines with you, including doses and allergies. This can be useful when you are talking to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medicines, including natural medicines, as some medicines cause problems if taken together.
- Do not share your medicines with friends or relatives – the medicines you are taking may be harmful to them.
10 steps for living well with arthritis
Here is our 10 steps checklist to help you live with arthritis.
Programs & Research
Arthritis Australia funds research and advocates to improve care, management, support and quality-of-life for people with arthritis.
What is accessible design?
Find out about what accessible design is and about the Accessible Design Division.
Sign up to Arthritis Insights
Regular updates, news and research findings delivered to your inbox: