What Are the Pros and Cons of Acetaminophen and Arthritis?

A. Pasbjerg

There are a number of reasons that acetaminophen and arthritis are a good combination, but there are several downsides as well. Many people find that acetaminophen is very effective for controlling arthritis pain. It is also available over the counter, so no doctor's prescription is needed, and it is typically cheaper than prescription alternatives. Acetaminophen is much less likely to cause certain side effects like stomach irritation that can come from using other drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), but it also carries more risk of causing liver damage when not taken as directed. It should also only be taken for a certain period of time, meaning it is not useful for long-term pain relief.


Many sufferers can take acetaminophen and arthritis pain is significantly or even completely relieved. While it does not have anti-inflammatory properties, the drug has been found to be just as effective for pain as many other popular over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or aspirin. It is important to take it at the recommended dosage, however, so people who do not find relief taking it in that amount will likely want to seek an alternative treatment.

A bottle of acetaminophen.
A bottle of acetaminophen.

Another good reason for combining acetaminophen and arthritis is because the drug is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Some types of arthritis drugs are only available with a prescription, which can be costly and may require more frequent trips to the doctor. Acetaminophen can be purchased over the counter in many locations and often for much less, particularly generic brands.

Acetaminophen for arthritis offers pros and cons in terms of side effects. Other common pain relievers like NSAIDs frequently cause stomach irritation and even ulcers, whereas there is much less risk of this with acetaminophen. Those medications may also be more likely than acetaminophen to react with other drugs. On the downside, acetaminophen has the potential to do significant harm to a person's liver, particularly at high doses, when taken by people who already have liver damage or when combined with alcohol.

One other reason to avoid the combination of acetaminophen and arthritis is that acetaminophen can only be used for short periods of time. Patients are recommended not to take the drug longer than 10 days unless it is approved by their doctor. Since arthritis is a chronic condition, it typically needs a long-term solution, making acetaminophen a poor choice. If it is effective for pain, this could also tempt users to take it for longer than is safe.

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