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Can NSAIDs Help Relieve Pain from Psoriatic Arthritis? A Q&A with Dr. Ogdie

By Beth W. Orenstein
Reviewed by Ethan T. Craig, M.D.
April 01, 2024

This article is part of a Q&A series in which a healthcare professional in our community answers your frequently asked questions.

We asked: “Could taking NSAIDs help me manage my psoriatic arthritis?”

Alexis Ogdie, M.D.: If you have psoriatic arthritis, it’s likely your doctor has asked you to take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs may help to decrease the inflammation, swelling, and joint pain that people with psoriatic arthritis can experience. NSAIDs may also help with morning stiffness and improving range of motion in your joints.

Some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), are sold over the counter. Your doctor may also write you a prescription for extra-strength NSAIDs or specific COX-2 inhibitors, which are a newer type of NSAID.

Are NSAIDs Safe?

All of the NSAIDs are about the same besides their strength and dosage. And NSAIDs are typically safe unless you have the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart-related problems, as NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke (a risk that may already be higher in people with psoriatic arthritis)
  • Kidney disease
  • Stomach problems, as NSAIDs may cause ulcers and stomach bleeding

If you have any of these conditions, you should avoid NSAIDs. Otherwise, rheumatologists recommend anti-inflammatories often to help people with psoriatic arthritis. They are a nice tool in addition to your other treatments.

How Long Should I Take Them?

You and your doctor may need to experiment to find an NSAID that works well for you. If one NSAID doesn’t work, try another and give it a couple of weeks. Within about two weeks of taking it regularly, you should be able to recognize whether it’s helping you. If taking the NSAID doesn’t reduce inflammation (seen as joint swelling, morning stiffness, and pain) in about two weeks, they probably aren’t going to, and you should talk to your doctor about stopping them.

Your doctor may prescribe NSAIDs for short-term use over several weeks during a flare. It’s also possible to be on NSAIDs long term, over months or years. However, some people can develop stomach problems when taking NSAIDs in high doses for long periods.

What Else Should I Remember?

It’s important that you talk with your doctor before you take any medication. Whether you take over-the-counter NSAIDs or prescription-strength medication, you should take the medication exactly as directed so that you achieve maximum benefits and avoid potential risks.

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