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How long does it take meloxicam to work?

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How long to workHow it worksSide effectsAlternativesSummary
Meloxicam is a prescription medication that can improve arthritis-related pain and inflammation. While some people experience its benefits within hours, others may need to wait days. 
Medically reviewed by Alexandra Perez, PharmD, MBA, BCGP
Updated on

Meloxicam belongs to a class of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It’s a generic medication that helps relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation linked to chronic conditions like:

  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Meloxicam doesn’t cure arthritis or prevent its progression. For ongoing relief, you may need to take it for a long time and pair it with other treatments like physical therapy and lifestyle changes.

How long meloxicam takes to work

An adult on a video call with a healthcare professional with meloxicam medications on a table in front of them.
Photography by Damircudic/Getty Images

How long it takes for meloxicam (Mobic) to work can differ from person to person. Factors like administration form and your age can play a role. 

Meloxicam comes in different forms, including: 

According to the medication labels, injected meloxicam may work faster than if you take it by mouth. Some people experience pain relief within just 2–3 hours. Others don’t feel any effects for the first 24 hours. 

If you take it by mouth, the drug reaches its highest concentration in your blood within 4–5 hours. Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will feel the maximum benefit at this time. 

Food intake can also affect how your body uses the drug. Eating a high fat meal when taking an oral form of meloxicam can increase the concentration of the medication in your blood by around 20%. However, the overall absorption remains the same. 

You may need to take the drug daily for up to 5 days for the drug to reach a steady state. This is when the concentration of the drug in your bloodstream becomes consistent and reaches its optimal therapeutic level.

At this point, your body has achieved a balance between the rate of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination. 

So, ultimately, how long meloxicam takes to work can range from hours to days. If you take this medication and find that it doesn’t relieve pain and inflammation adequately or quickly enough, you can ask the prescribing healthcare professional for advice.

They may be able to recommend alternatives or supplementary treatments.

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How it works

A 2023 article explains that NSAIDs like meloxicam work by blocking two enzymes called cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). 

These enzymes are responsible for converting a fatty acid called arachidonic acid into three signaling molecules, or eicosanoids called:

  • thromboxanes
  • prostaglandins 
  • prostacyclins

These eicosanoids have different effects on your body. Some lead to inflammation and pain, while others help protect the stomach lining and regulate blood flow.

By blocking COX-1 and COX-2, meloxicam reduces the production of eicosanoids that cause inflammation and pain. But it also reduces the production of the ones that protect the stomach and other organs. 

Side effects

Meloxicam, like all NSAIDs, can cause side effects in some people. The oral tablet product label lists the most common ones:

  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • reflux
  • gas
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • dizziness

Rarer and more serious side effects may include:

Meloxicam can also interact with other drugs. It’s important to tell the prescribing healthcare professional about all the medications you’re taking, including prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), herbal, and vitamin products. 

Some of the drugs that can interact with meloxicam include:

Meloxicam alternatives

Meloxicam isn’t the only option for treating arthritis pain and inflammation. Other medications may work better for you or have fewer side effects. A healthcare professional can help determine the best treatment for your condition.

An advocacy organization called the Arthritis Foundation lists some possible alternatives to meloxicam:

  • Other NSAIDs: NSAIDs can have different effectiveness and side effects for different people. Some are available OTC while you need a prescription for others. Options include:
  • Corticosteroids: These medications act like cortisol, a natural hormone in your body that can reduce inflammation. While corticosteroids can ease your symptoms quickly, they may not always be suitable for long-term use. Options include:
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These medications are often effective at treating inflammatory arthritis, though they can also weaken your immune system. You may need to take a combination of different DMARDs for symptom relief. Options include:
    • methotrexate (Trexall)
    • apremilast (Otezla)
    • baricitinib (Olumiant)
    • tofacitinib (Xeljanz)
  • Biologics: These drugs are a type of DMARD. They sometimes work better than regular DMARDs, but they can also be more expensive. They can make you more likely to get sick because they affect your immune system. Options include:
  • Analgesics: These are general pain relievers, available OTC or by prescription. While they can reduce your arthritis pain, they don’t improve inflammation. They can be safer for your stomach and heart compared with NSAIDs. Some types, like opioids, can cause dependence. Options include:


Meloxicam is a prescription NSAID that can help treat arthritis pain and inflammation. It works by blocking an enzyme that produces eicosanoids, which are chemicals that can cause inflammation and pain. 

While some people experience relief from pain and inflammation within hours of taking meloxicam, others don’t experience the beneficial effects for days.

Generally, it takes 5 days of daily use for the drug to reach a steady state in your body. At this time, it’s likely that you will experience the optimal effects.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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