The knee is a complex joint which consists of bone, cartilage, ligaments and tendons that make joint movements easy and at the same time more susceptible to various kinds of injuries. Knee problems may arise from degenerative disease such as arthritis, traumatic injuries and sports injuries. These conditions may affect the bones & joints and impair mobility and decrease quality of life. Treatment of knee problems involves a spectrum of options from non-operative to operative. Non-operative orthopaedic treatment options include non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions. They are aimed at providing symptomatic relief and improving function and return to activity. In addition, these medications can be used to help patients manage the pain of surgical recovery. The following is a discussion of medications typically used to treat knee joint problems.

Pharmacological interventions

Pharmacological interventions include management of pain using medicinal preparations such as pain-relieving capsules or injections.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – Also called NSAIDs, these medications work by reducing pain and inflammation. Many formulations of NSAIDs are available including over-the-counter medications such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and aspirin. Prescription NSAIDs work in the same fashion as OTC NSAIDs but typically come in higher does or stronger forms. While most patients can take NSAIDs safely, caution should be used in those with a history of heart problems, stomach ulcers, kidney, or liver problems. Discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of NSAID treatment and any contraindications you make have.
  • Opioids (narcotics) – Opioids are strong “pain killer” medications prescribed for the treatment of pain associated with significant injury or recent surgery. They work by blocking the body’s normal pain sensing nerve fibers and, therefore, are aimed at the pain itself and not the source of pain. While opioid pain medications are appropriate for short term treatment of pain associated with surgery and injury, they are typically meant to treat the pain associated with chronic conditions such as arthritis and back pain. Side effects include constipation, sedation, and decreased breathing. Due to their significant addition potential, narcotic pain medications should be used as prescribed, for as short a duration as possible.