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How Can You Ease Arthritis Pain Safely?

With salsalate, you may be able to ease arthritis pain safely. It is far less likely to irritate the digestive tract or cause cardiovascular problems than most NSAID pain relievers.

People with chronic pain such as the joint pain of severe osteoarthritis are often faced with terrible trade-offs. To get relief from the inflammation and discomfort, they may have to rely on medications that will cause problems in the long term. No wonder so many people want to learn how to ease arthritis pain safely.

Can You Ease Arthritis Pain Safely?

Q. I want to know if there is anything I can take for arthritis pain that will not give me stomach ulcers, raise my blood pressure or lead to a heart attack. I used to take ibuprofen and then naproxen for osteoarthritis, but they resulted in ulcers.

Mobic didn’t work. Vioxx helped, but they took it off the market. I am now on diclofenac and take Nexium (40 mg) for GERD. Could the diclofenac be damaging my stomach without my knowing it?

A. Diclofenac can be irritating to the digestive tract. It can also increase the risk for hypertension and heart attacks (Varas-Lorenzo et al, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, June 2013). However, diclofenac is not the only option.


One prescription pain reliever that is often overlooked is the drug salsalate. It is related to aspirin but is less likely to cause stomach irritation. Salsalate may not reduce the chance of cardiovascular problems, but it doesn’t seem to increase the risk either (Hauser et al, JAMA Cardiology, July 1, 2016).  In addition, salsalate improves blood sugar control (Salastekar et al, Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism, Oct. 2017).

You can learn more about salsalate as well as home remedies for joint pain and inflammation from Graedons’ Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis. In just over 100 pages, it reviews the pros and cons of many arthritis relief medicines, including diclofenac and salsalate. It also covers anti-inflammatory foods and herbs that can be very helpful.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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