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Acetaminophen is an analgesic, which helps relieve pain. (Analgesics do not affect inflammation as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDs, do.)
Doctors use acetaminophen to treat mild to moderate pain caused by osteoarthritis.
If acetaminophen does not relieve pain, or if joint tissue shows signs of inflammation, NSAIDs may be used.
Regular use of acetaminophen can provide relief of mild to moderate pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Some studies have shown that acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are equally effective for mild to moderate joint pain.1 Other studies suggest that NSAIDs are more effective than acetaminophen, especially for more severe pain.2
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Check the labels on all the other non-prescription and prescription medicines you take. Many medicines have acetaminophen. Do not take two or more medicines with acetaminophen in them unless your doctor told you to. Taking too much acetaminophen can be harmful. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Acetaminophen does not change the process of cartilage breakdown that happens in osteoarthritis.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
- Subcommittee on Osteoarthritis Guidelines, American College of Rheumatology (2000). Recommendations for the medical management of osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 43(9): 1905–1915.
- Towheed TE, et al. (2006). Acetaminophen for osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1). Oxford: Update Software.
Last Revised: April 6, 2012
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.