Medications to Treat Hands and Wrists
What you need to know about the many medications used for hand and wrist problems.
Medications to ease pain, relieve inflammation, slow bone loss, modify the course of an inflammatory disease or prevent joint damage are an important part of treatment for many hand and wrist problems. The medications used to treat arthritis and other problems that affect the hands and wrists will depend largely on the form of arthritis or related condition that is diagnosed. The types of medications commonly used in arthritis treatment are:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Including more than a dozen different drugs, some of which are available without a prescription, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to help ease arthritis pain and inflammation. They are used for all forms of arthritis.
Corticosteroids. These quick-acting drugs, similar to the cortisone made by your own body, are used to control inflammation. If inflammation is due to a systemic inflammatory disease, your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids. If inflammation is limited to one or a few joints, your doctor may inject a corticosteroid preparation directly into the joint.
Analgesics. Analgesics are among the most common drugs for many forms of arthritis. They also may be used to relieve pain from hand and wrist injuries and surgery. Unlike NSAIDs, which target both pain and inflammation, analgesics are designed purely for pain relief. For that reason, they may be safe for people who are unable to take NSAIDs due to allergies or stomach problems, for example. When used as prescribed, they’re also an appropriate, and possibly safer, choice for people whose arthritis causes pain but not inflammation.
If hand pain is in the soft tissues, you may find relief from an analgesic salve, rub or balm available over the counter under trade names such as Aspercreme, Ben-Gay, Capzasin-P, Eucalyptamint, Icy Hot, Voltaren Gel and Zostrix. These topical preparations work through a variety of active ingredients and may be helpful if you are unable to take oral medications, or if medications fail to relieve pain or reduce it to a manageable level.
Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are drugs that work slowly to modify the course of inflammatory disease. Different DMARDs may be useful for a number of different forms of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and psoriatic arthritis, all of which can affect the fingers and/or wrists.
Gout medications. Some medications for gout are designed to reduce levels of uric acid in the blood to prevent future attacks of joint pain and inflammation. Others are designed to relieve the pain and inflammation of an acute attack. Many people with gout take both types of medication.
Biologic response modifiers. The newest category of medications used for rheumatoid arthritis and a few other inflammatory forms of arthritis are the biologic agents. There are currently eight such agents approved by the FDA. Each blocks a step in the inflammation process without suppressing the entire immune system. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, certain biologic agents may be used in juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.
Osteoporosis medications. Osteoporosis medications are those used to slow the loss of bone or help the body build new bone. Although they are not used specifically to treat hand or wrist problems, strong bones are less prone to fracture. Wrist fractures are among the most common osteoporotic fractures.