Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation, which can relieve the joint pain and stiffness which is a feature of many rheumatological conditions. Some NSAIDs are available over the counter, such as ibuprofen. A newer generation, known as “coxibs”, that have fewer side effects, are only available on prescription.

NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal irritation, so it is important to only use them for a few days at a time. If you need to use them for longer, please consult your doctor. If they are required for long term use, your doctor may prescribe a drug called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) alongside the NSAID to help prevent gastrointestinal irritation. For this reason, NSAIDs are not recommended for people who have a history of gastric bleeding, or are taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin. NSAIDs should not be taken if pregnant or breastfeeding.

NSAIDs are available as gels or creams, as well as in tablet form, which means they can be applied to the affected joint directly. However, care must be taken not to apply too much, as it can be absorbed into the body and can still cause side effects (especially if you are also taking NSAID tablets).


For more information, please visit the Arthritis Research UK information page about NSAIDs.

Last updated: February 6, 2020