Treatment of Arthritis
A cornerstone of therapy of any form of arthritis is physical therapy and occupational therapy to maintain joint mobility and range of motion. The proper kind and amount of this therapy will vary depending upon the underlying cause and upon individual factors that your physician will discuss with you.
Many drugs are now used to treat the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, and others), naproxen (Naprosyn, and others) and dicolfenac (Voltaren), have immediate analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and are relatively safe.
Second-line drugs used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include hydroxychloroquine, gold, penicillamine, azathioprine, sulfasalazine and methotrexate. These agents (which have no immediate analgesic effect) can control symptoms and may possibly delay progression of the disease, but many of them can also cause severe adverse effects and diminish in effectiveness over time. NSAIDs are usually taken concurrently with the slower acting second-line drugs, which may take months to produce a therapeutic response.
Aspirin in high doses is as effective as any other NSAID and much less expensive, but some patients cannot tolerate the gastrointestinal toxicity. Aspirin interferes with platelet function and can rarely cause serious bleeding; this effect can persist for four to seven days after the drug has been discontinued.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and rarely, hepatitis (liver inflammation) or renal (kidney) damage can also occur with high-dosage aspirin therapy. Enteric-coated aspirin is safer but may not be fully absorbed. Nonacetylated salicylates, such as sodium salicylate, salsalate (Disalcid, and others), and choline magnesium salicylate (Trilisate, and others), do not interfere with platelet function and may be safer than acetylated salicylates for aspirin-sensitive patients, but some clinicians have questioned their effectiveness.