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What is meloxicam and what is it used for?

Living with arthritis and the associated pain and swelling can be difficult, but there are treatment options. Meloxicam is a prescription drug that helps relieve pain and inflammation from arthritis. Here we discuss what meloxicam is, why it’s prescribed, common dosage and side effects, and how it compares to other medications used for arthritis.

What is meloxicam?

Meloxicam is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is commonly used to treat arthritis. It helps treat pain, stiffness, inflammation, and swelling of the joints. Meloxicam is used to treat rheumatoid and osteoarthritis in adults, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in children who are at least 2 years old.

Meloxicam is a strong painkiller that must be prescribed by a doctor. It can come as a tablet, disintegrating tablet, capsule, or oral suspension liquid. Some popular brand names of meloxicam include Mobic, Vivlodex, and Meloxicam Comfort Pac. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals manufactures brand-name Mobic, and numerous other manufacturers make generic meloxicam.

What is meloxicam used for?

Meloxicam is used to treat the pain and inflammation that results from having rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It works by blocking the enzymes cyclooxygenase 1 and 2, which lower levels of the inflammation-causing hormone, a prostaglandin. Meloxicam is sometimes used to treat a condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which is arthritis that affects the spine.

The main symptoms that meloxicam treats are pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness. Many people use ibuprofen to try and treat their arthritis symptoms as they arise, and even though both ibuprofen and meloxicam are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, meloxicam is stronger. In one study, patients with osteoarthritis in the knee and hip showed significant improvement after 12 weeks in comparison to a placebo.

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Meloxicam dosages

Meloxicam is available as a tablet, disintegrating tablet, oral capsule, and as an oral suspension liquid. For osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, the standard dosage of meloxicam is 7.5 mg taken once per day, with a maximum daily dosage of 15 mg. For children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the standard dosage is 0.125 mg/kg per day, with a maximum dosage of 7.5 mg per day.

Meloxicam can take up to two weeks to start working in full effect. Some changes to pain, swelling, tenderness, or stiffness may be noticeable within 24 to 72 hours, but it might take longer to notice a large difference in pain levels.

“Meloxicam treats pain, swelling, and inflammation, especially associated with arthritis,” says Nonye Uddoh, Pharm.D., a clinical pharmacist with UnitedHealth Group. “It starts working within 30 minutes, but peaks in efficacy at four hours when taken by mouth. Its half life is 15-20 hours, meaning it takes 15 hours to eliminate half of it from your body.”

Dr. Uddoh also explains that meloxicam shouldn’t be used for people with asthma, aspirin sensitivity, known stomach disease, or by anyone with a medical history of ulcers or bleeding. Meloxicam shouldn’t be taken by anyone who has an allergy to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Anyone with a heart problem or heart disease should avoid taking this drug because it’s associated with a heightened risk of heart attacks. If you are about to have a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), meloxicam shouldn’t be taken right before or after surgery.

If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding you should avoid taking meloxicam. It’s possible that meloxicam could cause infertility or negatively affect your unborn baby. Research on whether or not meloxicam transfers to babies from their mother via breast milk is unclear.

Meloxicam shouldn’t be taken with the following drugs because it reacts negatively with them:

  • ACE-inhibitors
  • Aspirin
  • Diuretics
  • Lithium
  • Methotrexate
  • Cyclosporine

In the case of aspirin, taking it at the same time as meloxicam could result in an increased risk of ulcers. Keeping a list of all the medications you take, including any herbal products, can help doctors determine whether or not meloxicam is the right medication for you.

Taking ibuprofen and meloxicam at the same time shouldn’t be done without prior approval from a medical professional. Both medications are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and if they’re combined they can increase the risk of more serious side effects like stomach ulcers or bleeding.

Meloxicam is safe to take daily, and it’s typically longer-lasting than other over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen. Meloxicam is non-addictive and is easy to stop taking if wanted or required. Sometimes, serious side effects such as allergic reaction, nausea, or vomiting may occur. You should stop taking meloxicam immediately and seek medical advice if you experience any negative side effects.

What are the side effects of meloxicam?

As with any medication, there is always the potential for adverse effects. Here is a list of some of the common side effects associated with meloxicam:

  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Skin rash
  • Heartburn
  • Bleeding
  • Elevated potassium levels

Meloxicam has more serious side effects that are related to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attacks. It may cause allergic reactions that can be life-threatening. An allergic reaction could cause a shortness of breath, sore throat, hives, or swelling of the lips, tongue, and face. If you believe you are having an allergic reaction, seek medical help immediately.

Meloxicam should not be taken if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. Anyone who has had ulcers, kidney or liver disease or problems, or stomach bleeding should not take this medication. It should be taken with extreme caution for people with fluid retention and heart failure. Older adults, those who are in poor health, and those who have been taking NSAIDs for a long time are more likely to experience these side effects.

Meloxicam is not addictive, but it interacts poorly with blood thinners and could lead to bleeding. Alcohol should be avoided as much as possible while taking meloxicam because it increases the risk of getting stomach ulcers.

More serious risk factors associated with taking meloxicam include chest pain, infrequent urination or not urinating at all, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds, and black, bloody, or tarry stools. You should stop taking meloxicam and call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these side effects. This list of side effects is not comprehensive. Ask a healthcare professional for more details regarding the possible side effects of meloxicam.

This medication guide is a great resource that lists FDA warnings, adverse reactions, drug interactions, and general drug information as it relates to meloxicam.

Are there alternatives to meloxicam?

There are multiple drug alternatives to meloxicam that function in a similar way. Any medication that’s classified as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug will be similar in nature to meloxicam. Some medications like Aleve and Tylenol are available over-the-counter. Speaking with a medical professional can help you determine which medication is best for treating your individual arthritis pain.

  • Aleve (naproxen): Aleve is long-lasting and treats mild to moderate pain, inflammation, and fever. It’s available over-the-counter or by prescription.
  • Cambia (diclofenac): Cambia helps with muscle aches and pain that are a result of inflammation. It often needs to be taken several times a day and is not for long-term use because of its side effects. See diclofenac vs. ibuprofen to learn more about diclofenac and how it compares to ibuprofen.
  • Celebrex (celecoxib): Celebrex treats arthritis pain but should not be used if you have a heart condition. It causes fewer stomach problems and has a lower risk of causing heart attacks than other NSAIDs. Check out meloxicam vs. Celebrex for more information on the differences between meloxicam and Celebrex. However, it has shown to increase risk for heart disease.
  • Feldene (piroxicam): Feldene can help with joint stiffness, pain, and swelling due to rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
  • Lodine (etodolac): Lodine relieves pain from arthritis and other conditions. It may take up to two weeks to see therapeutic results, and Lodine is associated with some serious side effects like heart attacks and strokes. It’s important to speak with a medical professional if you are thinking of taking NSAIDs and have a heart condition.
  • Relafen (nabumetone): Relafen helps with pain and inflammation and is typically taken only once per day in comparison to other NSAIDs. It may take up to a week or more to feel a difference in pain levels if taking Relafen.
  • Tylenol Regular Strength (acetaminophen): Tylenol helps relieve pain and reduce fevers, but it doesn’t reduce swelling and inflammation. Tylenol is easier on the stomach and causes less bleeding than other pain medications. It’s available over-the-counter.

RELATED: Cambia details | Celebrex details | Feldene details | Lodine details | Nabumetone details

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Natural remedies for arthritis

Many natural and home remedies can help treat arthritis symptoms and may be an alternative to meloxicam for some people. Certain herbal supplements have anti-inflammatory properties, and natural treatments like massage therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic adjustments can help manage pain symptoms. Here’s a list of some of the most popular natural and home remedies that people use to treat the stiffness, pain, aching, and swelling that come from having arthritis:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet. Foods that contain omega-3s, sulfur, antioxidants, and collagen will help lower inflammation and pain. Types of foods that contain these nutrients include wild-caught fish, walnuts, garlic, onions, bone broth, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Staying active. Even though exercising might be more painful for people with arthritis, being active actually helps strengthen muscles that surround joints, which gives them more support. Exercising regularly lowers inflammation levels in the body. Stretching, walking, strength training, biking, and swimming are all activities that someone with arthritis could benefit from.
  • Ginger and turmeric. Even though the use of herbal supplements like ginger and turmeric aren’t approved by the FDA, many people still use them and benefit from their anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory for the body, and also as an analgesic that helps reduce pain. The most active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help with joint inflammation and swelling.
  • Getting chiropractic care. Chiropractic adjustments may help relieve pain that comes from having osteoarthritis. Treatment varies on a case-by-case basis, but most chiropractic manipulations are done on the neck, back, and spine. Many chiropractic offices offer massage therapy as well, which also helps with pain.
  • Using boswellia essential oil. Also known as frankincense oil, boswellia essential oil is known for its ability to reduce arthritis pain. It can be combined with a carrier oil and applied topically over painful areas several times per day.