Mild to moderate knee pain can often be successfully treated at home. Whether due to a sprain or arthritis, there are several ways to combat the pain.
Before you attempt to treat your pain at home, you should be cautious. Seek medical attention for moderate to severe pain caused by injury. Some types of knee pain can require surgery or other interventions to resolve.
If the pain is due to inflammation, arthritis or a minor injury, however, there are options you can try at home that have proven effective.
If you’ve twisted your leg, taken a hard fall, or otherwise strained your knee, first aid at home can be helpful. Remember the acronym “RICE” for treating strains and sprains:
Get off your feet and apply a cold compress or bag of ice to the knee. Frozen vegetables, such as peas, will also work if you have no ice handy. Wrap your knee with a compression bandage to prevent swelling, but not so tightly it cuts off circulation. While you’re resting, keep your foot elevated.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of mild to moderate knee pain that’s not related to injury. As people age, the cartilage that cushions their joints begins to deteriorate. With less lubrication and padding, joints can suffer bone-on-bone contact and become inflamed, causing pain.
There is no way to reverse arthritis damage. In extreme cases, a doctor may recommend a joint replacement. For many who suffer only mild to moderate pain, however, there are many home remedy options worth exploring.
There is less research on the benefits of supplements and alternative therapy than on pharmaceutical treatment options. Even so, there is some scientific evidence that shows certain supplements can effectively treat arthritis pain. Here are a few of the herbs and supplements some people have found beneficial.
A study published in 2001 found that some people with arthritis experienced pain relief using willow bark. The extract is commonly used by herbalists to treat fever, pain, and inflammation.
Ginger is available in many forms. It can be purchased in pre-packaged supplement form at health food or vitamin stores. Ginger root or tea can be found at the grocery store. The spice is used in many cuisines. Health benefits include relief from stomach upset and nausea as well as pain relief for many conditions. A study of people with arthritis found that ginger helped to reduce pain when used in combination with a prescription treatment for arthritis.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
These two supplements saw widespread popularity over the past decade due to commercial advertisements claiming they promote joint health. Research has shown that the combination had minimal effect on pain for those with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. However, both supplements did appear to benefit people who had more severe pain.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese form of mind-body exercise that improves balance and flexibility. In a study published by Arthritis and Rheumatism, researchers found that practicing tai chi is especially beneficial for those with osteoarthritis. It reduces pain and increases range of motion. The mental discipline it teaches could also aid in coping with chronic pain.
Exercise and weight management
Daily exercise to keep the joint moving reduces knee pain in some people. For those with arthritis, keeping the leg stationary or reducing the range of motion to avoid pain can stiffen the joint and make matters worse. Being overweight can aggravate the problem as well, so weight management is important.
Heat and cold therapy
Using a heating pad to rest your knee when reclining can help to keep the joint from stiffening up. Wrapping a gel-style cold pack or cool compress around it can reduce pain and swelling.
In a study published in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, researchers investigated a salve made of cinnamon, ginger, mastic, and sesame oil. They found the salve was just as effective as over-the-counter arthritis creams containing salicylate, a topical pain relief treatment.
Before you try any home remedy, whether a dietary supplement or other alternative therapy, you should talk to your doctor. Some supplements can interact with other medications or have unwanted side effects.
It’s also important to find the cause behind the pain. You may need blood work and X-rays to rule out more serious possibilities. The sooner you get to the root of the problem, the sooner you’ll be on the road to recovery.
You asked, we answered
- When trying to relieve knee pain, what is the proper way to use heat and ice?
Ice is used to reduce swelling and may also reduce pain. If the knee pain is due to a recent injury, try an ice pack for 20 minutes, then wait two hours and repeat as desired for up to 72 hours. Alternatively, a 10 minute on and 10 minute off approach may be effective. Use an approved ice pack or wrap the ice in a towel to prevent damage to the skin. Heat is often helpful for minimizing chronic joint pain. Use a heating pad or warm moist towel for 10 minutes, then remove; repeat the process as desired.- Deborah Weatherspoon PhD, MSN, CRNA, COI