Medications to Treat Hip Pain

What you need to know about the many medications used for hip arthritis and related problems.

June 7, 2021

Medications to ease pain and inflammation, slow bone loss, slow the disease progress or prevent joint damage are important in treating many hip problems. The types of medications commonly used in treating arthritis and related conditions affecting hips 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 and other painful hip conditions. Most NSAIDs are taken orally, but topical preparations are available, such as Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel and Pennsaid.

• Corticosteroids. These quick-acting drugs, similar to the cortisone produced naturally by the body, are used to control inflammation. If hip inflammation is due to a systemic autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or polymyalgia rheumatica, your doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids. If inflammation is limited to your hip or an inflamed bursa, a corticosteroid injection directly into the inflamed joint or bursa might help.

• Analgesics. Analgesics, which include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and opioids, are commonly used for arthritis in the hip and other joints as well as pain relief from hip injuries and surgery. Unlike NSAIDs, which target both pain and inflammation, analgesics are designed purely for pain relief. They may be a better option for people who are unable to take NSAIDs due to allergies or stomach problems. Opioids, available only by prescription, are effective pain relievers and typically used short-term to ease significant pain from surgery, for example. They may also be appropriate for longer-term use under the direction of your doctor, but they have significant side effects, including dependency and addiction.

Other topicals. A variety of salves, creams, gels, patches and other topical treatments contain various active ingredients to relieve pain. Sold as Aspercreme, Ben-GayCapzasin-PEucalyptamint, Icy Hot and others, they are often effective for pain in muscles and soft tissues that are not too deep from the skin’s surface.

• Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. These are drugs that work slowly to modify the course of inflammatory disease. Different disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are useful for different forms of arthritis affecting the hip, including RA, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis.

• Biologics. These work systemically to change the course of disease, which may cause pain in the hip as well as other joints. A number of biologics and copycat versions called biosimilars are approved to treat several forms of inflammatory arthritis and related conditions, but not osteoarthritis. Unlike DMARDs, which work to suppress the immune system, each biologic blocks a certain step in the inflammation process without suppressing the entire immune system. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, certain biologic agents may be used in juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus 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 hip problems, strong bones are less prone to fracture. Certain medications for osteoporosis, called bisphosphonates, are also used to treat Paget's disease of the bone, which may cause hip pain, although rarely.


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