Do Anti-Inflammatories Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. Anti-inflammatory medications can help address symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. Anti-inflammatory medications can help address symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. Inflammation is your body’s attempt to heal an injury. Disorders like rheumatoid arthritis signal injuries that don’t exist, leading to chronic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can help address symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Anti-inflammatory medicine is often part of the treatment plan for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. You cannot cure rheumatoid arthritis, but you can manage symptoms and even go into remission. If a single medication doesn’t improve rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may try a combination. Your treatment plan may include: 

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) – controlling pain
  • Glucocorticoids – a hormonal steroid taken orally or intravenously
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD)  – to slow down the progression of your disease‌
  • Other analgesics – for severe pain 

Doctors once prescribed more medications at once, taking a pyramid approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis. Now, doctors prefer to first use DMARDs to treat your condition. Then they slowly introduce other medications as needed to address symptoms based on their severity.

Understanding anti-Inflammatory medications

NSAIDs are a class of anti-inflammatory medications that do not contain steroids. They come in over-the-counter doses as well as prescription strength. Your doctor suggests different ones based on your specific health needs. If you have a prescription, don’t mix it with over-the-counter NSAIDS.

NSAIDs often relieve pain faster than they relieve inflammation. Allow time for your NSAID to begin working before you take additional medication. Talk to your doctor if you think your anti-inflammatory medicine isn’t working well enough for you. NSAIDs are designed to address your symptoms but do not help to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of treating your rheumatoid arthritis. Leaving your condition untreated may lead to severe pain, physical disabilities, and even premature death. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you also have an increased risk of chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Anti inflammatory drug side effects

If you take an NSAID, you may experience side effects like: 

Other ways to improve your symptoms

Medication can only do so much to improve your symptoms. Healthy lifestyle changes can improve your overall health and reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Lose weight. Obesity puts added pressure on your joints and makes it harder for your medication to work. People who are obese experience the same benefits from NSAIDs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Losing weight also reduces your risk for other chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Stay active. Rheumatoid arthritis makes it painful to move around. But, a sedentary lifestyle makes your condition worse than if you stay active. Do your best to work through the pain and warm up your joints. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Ideas include walking, hiking, swimming, or riding a bike.

You can break activities down to 30 minutes, five days per week. If it’s too difficult to stay active for 30 minutes, commit to ten minutes at a time to reach your 150-minute goal each week. Staying active benefits your joints, helps you maintain your weight, and lowers your risk for other health conditions.

Quit smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, you may worsen your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. With reduced lung capacity, you may also have difficulty staying active because of breathing problems.

Eat healthy foods. Maintain a well-balanced diet and prioritize fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains. Avoid foods that cause inflammation like: 

  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods
  • Soda
  • Red meat‌
  • Refined sugars

Get plenty of rest. Your body needs time to rest and recover from activity. This is even more important with rheumatoid arthritis. Take breaks during the day to reduce inflammation and tiredness. You also need to get a good night’s sleep. Try to stick to a routine that allows for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

Using hot and cold. Alternate hot and cold therapies to reduce inflammation and treat your symptoms. Soaking in a warm bath may improve the pain you feel in your joints and muscles. Ice packs are best to reduce swelling in your joints.

Take supplements. Some research suggests that curcumin, turmeric, and omega-3 fish oil may improve pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Always talk to your doctor about any supplements before adding them to your regimen. Drug interactions and side effects are possible, and your doctor can help you decide what supplements offer the most benefits.


American College of Rheumatology: "NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)."

Arthritis Foundation: "Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and More."

CDC: "Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)."

Journal of the American Family Physician: "Diagnosis and Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Journal of Aging and Disease: "Redefining Chronic Inflammation in Aging and Age-Related Diseases: Proposal of the Senoinflammation Concept."