What are they used for ?
Anti-inflammatory drugs are useful for reducing or even blocking the inflammation that occurs in osteoarthritis during congestive flare-ups.
In this case they are very useful as it has been proven that during congestive flare-ups there is a very high risk of cartilaginous damage. The faster these flare-ups are kept in check the more it will be possible to limit damage to the joint.
How do they work ?
There are two types: steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs which are derived from cortisone and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs which do not contain any. The first are only used in osteoarthritis locally when they are injected directly into the joint.
There are many NSAIDs and nearly all of them can be used in treating osteoarthritis.
Their use is reserved to treating the inflammatory flare-ups of osteoarthritis. Hence, they should always be prescribed for a short amount of time, in general no longer than 10 days. No NSAIDs are more effective than others per se.
Indeed, it is undeniable that each individual person has his or her sensitivities so certain NSAIDs will be more effective in some and less effective in others.
In all events, only your doctor is qualified to decide which treatment is best suited to you.
What precautions need to be taken?
NSAIDs are well-known for causing digestive problems and, in particular, for the development of ulcers. This is an undeniable risk, in particular with the elderly and with patients who already have an ulcer.
In the same way, smoking and alcohol consumption increase this digestive risk.
You need to be aware that this risk is not associated with taking the drug orally and that the risk exists even with NSAIDs dispensed in the form of suppositories or intramuscular injections. However, it is possible to control this risk because drugs that protect the stomach can be prescribed with the NSAIDs for people at risk. Lastly, you need to keep in mind that the risks are compensated by the very real effectiveness of these drugs. In addition, there are new generation NSAIDs: coxibs. Because of their special action mechanism these drugs are just as effective as the classic NSAIDs and they have the advantage of being better tolerated by the stomach.
There are other potential side effects: allergies, impaired kidney function, coagulation disorder.
You doctor is fully aware of the side effects of NSAIDs and only he or she can judge whether it is necessary for you to take them.
Never combine two anti-inflammatory drugs at the same time and inform your doctor if you are taking aspirin: this combination should also be avoided. Never take anti-inflammatory drugs on your own initiative without talking to your doctor beforehand.