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There is no cure for arthritis but there are several arthritis treatment options available depending on the type of arthritis. Treatments include physical therapy to maintain joint health and strengthen muscles that support the joints; lifestyle changes (including exercise and weight control); the use of orthopedic braces; corticosteroid injections into the affected joints, and over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Medications can help reduce pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter treatments are typically used to temporarily relieve pain and inflammation. These include topical pain-relieving creams, rubs, and sprays that are applied directly to the skin over affected joints; acetaminophen, which relieves pain but not inflammation; and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that treat both arthritis pain and inflammation.
Prescription drugs include prescription NSAIDs, narcotic pain relievers such as opioids that work by acting on the pain receptors on nerve cells; oral corticosteroids that act to suppress the immune system in people with rheumatoid arthritis (corticosteroids may also be injected into affected joints for temporary relief of osteoarthritis pain); and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which target the underlying processes that cause certain forms of inflammatory arthritis.
For some people who do not respond to medications, surgery may be required to replace the affected joints.