Medications used to manage osteoarthritis

Analgesics, or painkillers, are commonly used to manage the pain of osteoarthritis. Analgesics include paracetamol, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid analgesics.

In Australia, the US and the UK, the clinical practice guidelines for management of osteoarthritis recommend regular use of paracetamol as the first choice. When paracetamol provides insufficient pain relief, regular use of NSAIDs is recommended [1].

Australian guidelines recommend intra-articular corticosteroid injections for short-term treatment of hip and knee osteoarthritis. Oral opioids are used to relieve moderate to severe pain [2].

The most common medications prescribed, advised or supplied by general practitioners (GPs) for osteoarthritis [3] were:

  • paracetamol (non-opioid analgesic)
  • Meloxicam (NSAID COX-2)
  • Celecoxib (NSAID COX-2).


  1. Stitik T, Altschuler E & Foye P 2006. Pharmacotherapy of osteoarthritis. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 85:S15–S28.
  2. RACGP (The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners) 2009. Guideline for the non-surgical management of hip and knee osteoarthritis. Melbourne: RACGP.
  3. Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) Survey, in 2010–11, Britt H, Miller GC, Charles J, Henderson J, Bayram C, Pan Y, Valenti L, Harrison C, O'Halloran J, Zhang C, Fahridin S 2011. General practice activity in Australia 2010–11. General practice series no.29. Sydney: Sydney University Press.