Finding Knee Pain Relief
Knee pain from osteoarthritis can take a serious toll on your quality of life. About 10 percent of adults in the United States suffer from knee osteoarthritis, and the prevalence of the condition has been increasing over time. Knee osteoarthritis can lead to mobility problems and severe pain and discomfort.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are a wide variety of treatments that can reduce pain and inflammation and improve joint functioning. With a combination of lifestyle changes, natural home remedies, and medical treatments, you can relieve knee pain and restore your quality of life. Here is everything you need to know about how to relieve knee pain from osteoarthritis:
Assess Your Pain
If you start experiencing knee pain, the first thing you should do is assess how severe it is. There are a wide variety of treatment options for mild or moderate pain, and most types of minor knee pain will go away with non-invasive treatments.
If you have severe pain, you should seek medical advice right away as continuing to move or put pressure on your knee could cause damage. Contact your doctor if you notice significant swelling or tenderness around the joint or if you can’t put weight on your knee without intense pain.
How to Prevent Knee Pain
Preventing knee pain is easier than treating it. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis and other painful conditions by making some lifestyle changes. You can also prevent mild knee pain from worsening.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that exercise is the best way to maintain healthy knees and prevent injury. Strengthening the muscles in your thighs will help your knee joints absorb shock, which will reduce the amount of strain on your knees.
The AAOS recommends a variety of strengthening exercises, including leg lifts, hamstring curls, and wall squats. You should also stretch every time you exercise. Strengthening exercises can tighten your muscles, making you more prone to injury. Stretching your quads and hamstrings will keep your knees flexible and prevent injury and soreness after a workout.
Being overweight or obese can contribute greatly to osteoarthritis in the knees because the excess weight puts extra strain on the joints. According to Harvard Health, walking on level ground puts a force of 1.5 times your body weight on your knees. For example, a 200-pound man puts 300 pounds of pressure on his knees when he walks. When you walk at an incline, the pressure is two to three times your body weight.
Losing even a few pounds could make a noticeable difference in your joint health. A study from Johns Hopkins found that the risk of knee osteoarthritis in women dropped by 50 percent for every 11 pounds lost. Also, men who moved from the obese to overweight BMI category or from the overweight to healthy weight category reduced their risk of osteoarthritis by 21.5 percent.
Weight loss involves a combination of diet changes and exercise. You can lower your calorie intake by reducing portion sizes and by eating mostly healthy, filling foods like lean proteins, whole grains, and vegetables. Exercise can burn calories while also strengthening your joints and reducing inflammation. It’s important to make sustainable, long-term changes to your diet and exercise habits so that you can maintain a healthy weight permanently.
Wear Appropriate Shoes
Ill-fitting or unsupportive shoes can lead to knee injury and pain. Your shoes impact the amount of pressure put on your knee joints when you walk, so it’s important to choose a good pair.
Well-cushioned shoes will absorb the impact of your feet hitting the ground, which will prevent the shock from reaching your knees. Shoes with firm midsoles can reduce overpronation, a motion that causes the knee to turn inward when the foot hits the ground. Another option is to use molded footwear inserts, which add extra cushioning and hold your foot in position to prevent rotation.
Avoid High Impact Activities
Certain types of exercise can be great for treating and preventing knee pain, but high-impact exercises can cause more pain and damage. Activities like running, jumping rope, and skiing put a lot of pressure on your knees, so they’re not the safest exercises for people who have a history of joint pain. Instead, stick to low-impact exercises like walking or swimming.
Use a Walking Aid
Not all cases of knee pain require a walking aid, but if you have osteoarthritis, a cane or walker may stop your pain from worsening. Leaning on a walking aid takes some of the pressure off of your knees.
There are several types of walking aids. A cane is designed to relieve pressure on one of your knees, so it’s ideal for people who have pain in just one knee. If you have pain in both of your knees, a walker may be a better option.
How to Relieve Knee Pain
Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. You can use one or a combination of the following treatments to reduce pain and improve your joint health:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can be highly effective at relieving joint pain. The most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Acetaminophen can help with knee pain, too. Whichever over-the-counter pain medication you use, it’s important to follow the directions on the label and read the warnings.
The oral supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may relieve osteoarthritis pain as well. However, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that you may have to take these supplements for several months before you notice results, so you shouldn’t use them as your primary treatment.
Physical therapists are experts in exercise and movement. Doing strengthening exercises on your own can be a great way to reduce pain, but you may not know how to complete the exercises properly and safely. A physical therapist will assess your injury and guide you through the best exercises to strengthen your knees and increase your flexibility. Then, you can continue the exercises at home to maintain the effects.
A physical therapist may provide a number of other treatments, too. They may perform manual therapy, which involves hands-on manipulation of the joints and soft tissue. They might also recommend hydrotherapy, which involves performing exercises in water, or thermotherapy, which involves applying ice to the inflamed joints.
Injections can be an effective way to relieve pain in your knee joints. One of the most common options is a corticosteroid shot, which can immediately reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids are similar to the hormone cortisol, which plays an important role in controlling inflammation.
Another popular option is hyaluronic acid, a clear substance that is naturally produced by the body to keep the joints and connective tissue lubricated. Hyaluronic acid injections are administered directly into the knee joint. The shots should be given once every three to five weeks, but it may take a couple months before you notice results. The injections typically work best for people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis.
Some people with long-term knee pain receive platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, injections. During PRP therapy, your doctor will draw your blood and run it through a centrifuge, which concentrates the platelets. Then, they will inject the platelets directly into your knee. Research suggests that this process can repair damaged cartilage and tissue, reducing pain and improving the function of the joint.
PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is a common sports medicine protocol for treating knee injuries or chronic knee pain at home without medication. Following this protocol is especially helpful after a knee injury or during an arthritis flare-up.
PRICE can reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and speed up the healing process. However, if you have moderate or severe osteoarthritis, the PRICE protocol may not be enough to heal your knee. You may need other therapies or medications in addition to following PRICE.
There are several alternative medicine treatments that may help relieve knee pain. One of the most popular is acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the body. Several studies have found that acupuncture helps with pain relief for people with knee osteoarthritis. The practice can reduce inflammation and increase endorphin production, which provides natural pain relief.
Another popular alternative medicine is massage therapy. Getting a massage can lower your body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone that is closely linked to inflammation. Massage can also help with stiffness in the knees and other joints.
Aromatherapy can be helpful for some people with knee arthritis, too, especially when the treatment is combined with massage. Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic oils from flowers, herbs, and other plants to reduce pain. Some of the most popular aromatherapy oils for arthritis pain include ginger, peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus. During an aromatherapy massage, the massage therapist uses oils or lotions that contain pain-relieving essential oils.
When to See a Doctor
While over-the-counter medicines, lifestyle changes, and rest can help reduce pain, long-term knee pain may require medical intervention. If the pain starts to interfere with your daily life, you should speak to your doctor about how to relieve knee pain from osteoarthritis with medications or therapies. Also, if the knee pain appears suddenly or worsens suddenly, you should schedule a doctor’s appointment to check for tears or other injuries. In severe cases, knee replacement surgery may be necessary to restore functioning to the knees.
Osteoarthritis can be a serious, debilitating condition, but your doctor can recommend the right treatments and therapies for you. With your doctor’s help, you can find the combination of treatments to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve your joint health.