When your knees are healthy and functioning well, you hardly even think about them. But age catches up with us all eventually, and as it does, finding knee pain arthritis relief becomes a top priority.
Something as simple as walking up and down stairs can be intensely painful with arthritis, leading you to wonder how to relieve arthritis knee pain right now.
Once a flare-up is soothed, it’s also important to find pain management that can help improve your symptoms in the long-term.
The good news? Our understanding of arthritis has come a long way, and there are many science-backed options for arthritis pain relief that really work.
But before we dive into pain relief options, let’s take a look at science’s current understanding of arthritis and why it’s causing your knee pain.
What is arthritis and how does it cause knee pain?
There are a few different types of arthritis. No matter what kind of arthritis you have, most knee pain arthritis relief options will be the same. It’s important to talk with your healthcare team to determine what kind of care you need for your specific condition.
The most common kind of arthritis is osteoarthritis, otherwise known as “wear and tear” arthritis. This kind of arthritis is caused by the natural loss of cartilage in the knees over time. When cartilage in the knees or other joints starts to wear down, two things happen.
First, the knee joint gets inflamed. This can come along with swelling, heat, and general achiness. As the condition worsens, the joint is left with bone rubbing against bone, and occasionally pinches or rubs against other nerves and tissues, causing even more intense pain.
Can arthritis be cured?
There are many things you can do to support your joints before arthritis and in the early stages of the condition. Taking collagen, for instance, has been proven to reduce joint deterioration and relieve knee pain.
So can collagen cure knee pain? Or is there any other cure? Unfortunately, the answer is no; there is currently no known cure for arthritis.
If your arthritis is advanced enough, other forms of knee pain arthritis relief may not be effective.
In this case, your doctor may recommend knee replacement surgery. This isn’t a cure, exactly, but it does put an end to arthritis pain. During this surgery, your surgeon will replace the cartilage in your knee with artificial caps, often made of metal or plastic.
Luckily, when it comes to finding knee pain arthritis relief, you have a wide range of options before surgery is on the table. Some of these will require regular visits to the doctor’s office, but most treatments will involve home remedies for knee pain.
11 ways to relieve arthritis knee pain
Whenever you’re looking at long-term pain management, there’s usually a trade-off. The best pain relief for arthritis in knees is often too potent to be used regularly without serious side effects.
Other pain relief options may seem to do nothing at all for days or even weeks. Then, you’ll start to notice a decrease in overall pain day-to-day as your hard work pays off.
When you’re looking at how to relieve arthritis knee pain, it’s best to use a mixture of these options. Take advantage of the potent, instant pain relief options to power through the arthritis relief techniques that will pay off in the long run.
Here are our top 11 recommendations for knee pain arthritis relief:
1. Take over-the-counter NSAIDs for temporary relief
“NSAID” stands for “Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug”, and you probably have it in your cabinet right now. Tylenol, Motrin, Aleve, and even Aspirin are all NSAIDs you can get “over the counter”, meaning you don’t need a prescription to access them.
NSAIDs can provide nearly instant knee pain arthritis relief, but they have their limits. Firstly, NSAIDs only provide temporary relief. Second, taking NSAIDs frequently for an extended period of time can cause major side effects, including a higher risk of stroke and heart failure.
All that being said, taking NSAIDs can be the best pain relief for arthritis in knees while you work towards other, more permanent pain management. They’re inexpensive, easy to access, and can be used to give your other pain relief tools a boost when needed.
2. Explore injection options
Injections are one of the pain relief options that will require regular visits to the doctor’s office. You have several options for injections that provide knee pain arthritis relief, and you’ll need to speak with your doctor about what’s right for you.
Corticosteroid injections fight inflammation in the joint, providing pain relief that can last from a few days to several months. That might seem like a large window, and it is.
Results from corticosteroid injections vary significantly from case to case. Newer evidence even suggests that corticosteroids can cause arthritis to advance more quickly and increase pain in some patients.
You might also want to look at hyaluronic acid injections. Hyaluronic acid provides knee pain arthritis relief by mimicking a fluid your body naturally produces to lubricate joints. Pain relief from these injections can last 4-12 weeks, but seems to work better for some people than others.
3. Use topical pain medication for instant relief
When researching how to relieve arthritis knee pain, you’ll probably come across a knee pain supplement or two. Among the most popular is capsaicin, a chemical commonly found in chili peppers.
You’re most likely to find capsaicin in creams or gels, and the instructions will recommend applying them directly to the joint. Capsaicin can provide significant pain relief, with one study finding 80% of participants experienced significant relief after two weeks of treatment.
Other topical ingredients for knee pain arthritis relief include salicylates, menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil, and cinnamon oil. These are all counterirritants, meaning they provide sensations that distract the brain from the pain in your joint.
4. Look into knee braces or compression sleeves
Knee braces and compression sleeves provide pain relief by stabilizing the joint and decreasing swelling. These are excellent knee pain arthritis relief options when you plan to be on your feet for an extended period of time.
Soft braces can provide immediate pain relief and increase stability, but it’s important to make sure the brace fits correctly. Ill-fitting braces can do more harm than good, irritating the skin and muscles around your knees and actually increasing pain.
Compression sleeves have similar results. One study found that compression sleeves provided instant pain relief and improved function for people with knee arthritis.
Best of all, compression sleeves and soft braces are easy to acquire, fairly inexpensive, and can be reused as frequently as needed.
5. Alternate ice and heat therapy
Some people recommend icing swollen knees, while others swear by heat therapy for achy joints. And many people find that alternating heat and cold provides the best pain relief for arthritis in knees.
Evidence on cold and heat therapies for arthritis is limited, and many of the studies use different methods. This makes it difficult to draw a hard line on their effectiveness in knee pain arthritis relief. However, no negative side effects have been observed in any study using heat or cold therapy.
Cold can help soothe inflammation and swelling, while heat can increase blood flow to the area, helping with mobility and stiffness. With both heat and cold, sessions should be no more than 20 minutes, with at least a 20-minute break in between so you don’t damage any tissue.
6. Manage your weight
When it comes to recommendations on how to prevent knee pain, weight loss is a top contender. Since your knees are joints, they have to deal with forces that are heavier than your actual body weight. To be exact, your knees carry about 2 to 3 times your body weight when walking.
This means that if you’re overweight, weight management might be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for dealing with pain.
Knee pain arthritis relief from weight loss takes time, but it can significantly improve daily pain symptoms, especially when paired with anti-inflammatory diets that are low in sugar, sodium, and fat.
7. Explore acupuncture or massage therapy
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves inserting very thin needles into the skin near pressure points. These pressure points can relieve pain and are thought to cure a variety of ailments.
When it comes to arthritis, there’s surprising evidence supporting acupuncture as knee pain arthritis relief.
Across 10 randomized, controlled studies, acupuncture provided significant pain relief to participants. Some participants also experienced an increase in range of motion, but this effect was less pronounced.
Massage therapy doesn’t have scientific backing in quite the same way acupuncture does, but many people find that it still relieves pain. The pressure and heat from your hands or the hands of your massage therapist can provide a similar effect to compression or heat therapies.
All told, massage isn’t a guarantee for knee pain arthritis relief, but it certainly won’t make things worse!
8. Book an appointment with a physical therapist
Physical therapists are experts in strengthening the body after injury. They’ll guide you through a number of strengthening exercises and stretches designed to support your knee for long-term knee pain arthritis relief.
Clinical support from a physical therapist, one study found, improved walking speed by 52% after 4 weeks. Patients who did the same exercises at home, on the other hand, improved by only 26%.
A physical therapist can watch and adjust the way you do exercises so you get the best pain relief for arthritis in knees possible, and physical therapy is often covered partially or fully by insurance.
When you first begin physical therapy, you might experience more pain as your body adjusts. Over time, however, your muscles will get stronger and your day-to-day pain will decrease.
9. Get plenty of (low-impact) exercise
Exercise is still important when you’re dealing with knee pain. In fact, when it comes to learning how to relieve arthritis knee pain, it’s one of the most important things you can do.
You’ll need to stick to low-impact exercises that don’t require your knees to handle a lot of jostling around.
Tai Chi and yoga are two of the most popular low-impact exercises for knee pain arthritis relief. These exercises strengthen your whole body, including the muscles around your knees, and increase flexibility.
Like physical therapy and weight loss, exercise takes time to provide pain relief. The important thing is to keep going, remembering that your pain will decrease with time and practice.
10. Meditate to manage chronic pain
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, doesn’t necessarily stop your knees from hurting. So why is it on this list of knee pain arthritis relief tips? In combination with other pain relief methods, mindfulness meditation can help you more effectively manage pain.
This means that meditation can help you cope with, accept, and be more at peace with your health. Since stress significantly increases both inflammation and pain signals to the brain, mediation provides pain relief by calming your body down.
Meditation takes practice, but over time, the results can be life-changing.
11. Supplement with collagen to support cartilage and bone health
Regularly taking collagen for knees can support your joints at every level. Collagen is one of the most basic building blocks of the human body and can be found in your cartilage, ligaments, and bones. In other words, every element of your knee is up to 80% collagen.
Collagen as a supplement for knee pain arthritis relief won’t kick in instantly like an NSAID. However, it can support weight management, exercise, and help to preserve the cartilage in your knees, as well as the strength of the bones and ligaments surrounding them.
Over time, many people find that collagen supplementation is some of the best pain relief for arthritis in knees there is! Taking collagen for ligaments can improve strength and flexibility in the knee joints and really improve your joint health.
How to relieve arthritis knee pain at home
Getting pain relief shouldn’t require an appointment. When you’re having an arthritis flare-up, you need solutions that help you immediately, as well as a long-term plan for knee pain arthritis relief.
NSAIDs, topical pain relief, ice, heat, compression, and acupuncture can all provide that instant relief you need. And regular exercise, meditation, and medical-grade collagen supplements can offer stable, long-term support so arthritis pain never gets in the way.