11 Scientifically Proven Ways To Relieve Arthritic Knee Pain

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Arthritis in the knee can be particularly painful because you feel it with each step. These proven methods to relieve arthritic knee pain range from simple home-based tips to complicated medical procedures.

woman having her knee arthritis examined by a doctor
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There is nothing quite like having a knee ache with every single step you take though out the day. Sometimes it feels like someone is jabbing you with a stick every time your foot touches the ground.

Then, you finally get off your feet and lay down for a well-deserved night’s rest. But, no, your knees have other ideas. No sleep for you because your arthritic knee pain thinks you should be awake.

But, there are things you can do to address knee pain from arthritis. Here are the best expert suggestions from across the web.

1. Take A Bath

According to the Arthritis Foundation, taking a warm bath relieves arthritic knee pain in a number of different ways. Firstly, the warm water reduces inflammation which is the primary cause of pain in arthritic joints. Secondly, it temporarily defies gravity relieving pressure on sensitive nerves.

And last but not least, a warm bath calms and relaxes the body and the mind stimulating the release of endorphins which act on the opiate receptors on the brain providing a natural analgesic or pain relieving effect.

woman smiling and relaxing in a hot bath
Taking a bath alleviates arthritis pain and inflammation and has a calming effect.

2. Hot And Cold Therapy

The most comprehensive research conducted into the effects of hot and cold therapy for the treatment of osteoarthritis seems to have been conducted by two scientists at the University of Gazi in Turkey. Once again, there are a variety of different ways that both hot and cold treatments have been found to relieve pain.

Number one is that both heat and cold reduce inflammation. Hot therapy increases blood circulation increasing the delivery of antibodies and hormones to the affected area. Cold therapy acts as a natural analgesic (painkiller). Both reduce blood spasm to relax muscle spasm or stiffness to relieve pain.

3. Lose Weight

Very simply, arthritis results in swelling in the joints which causes pressure on the nerves resulting in pain. Reducing the amount of pressure on the nerves is therefore paramount to relieving pain.

People who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from the painful effects of arthritis due to the increased pressure on joints resulting from additional weight.

Research conducted by the National Institute of Health also showed a decrease in Interleukin-6 (IL-6) which is an inflammatory causing substance in the body in those who lost weight. Just a 10% decrease in body weight can provide some relief from pain whereas 20% can result in significant pain relief.

4. Diet

Apart from eating a healthy diet to regulate and maintain optimal bodily functions, the Arthritis Foundation has found that including certain foods can in fact alleviate knee pain associated with arthritis.

Any foods that have anti-inflammatory properties can be beneficial as well as a diet including in fish such as salmon and mackerel that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The Mediterranean Diet has been found to be of specific benefit to osteoarthritis sufferers.

senior woman doing situps as exercise to relieve arthritic knee pain
Exercise has been shown to provide long term relief of arthritic knee pain.

5. Exercise

According to Dr. Johnson, a fellow of the American Association Of Orthopedic Surgeons, exercise can be of greater benefit to relieve arthritic knee pain on a long-term basis than medication to alleviate pain and inflammation.

Exercise builds the muscles around the knee to provide additional support to prevent wear and tear, friction and inflammation which all contribute to pain. However, it is important to discuss any exercise with a doctor to prevent aggravating the condition or causing an injury.

6. Pharmaceutical Treatments

Prescription medications work in two ways to alleviate arthritic knee pain – analgesic and anti-inflammatory (commonly NSAIDS or corticosteroids). Analgesics work by dulling the actual pain while anti-inflammatory medication reduce swelling to reduce pain.

While both of these treatments can be highly effective at reducing pain, there are mild to severe side-effects and treatment is not recommended for and extended period of time. Like most pharmaceuticals, these medications treat the symptoms and not the cause of the problem. There is currently no medication available to cure osteoarthritis.

7. Sleep Therapy

Restful sleep is absolutely critical to optimal functioning of the body as well as to promote healing and pain relief. Sleeping can however be difficult with arthritic knee pain. Try different sleeping positions and use pillows to provide support and relieve pressure on knees.

If knee pain is having a significant impact on the ability to sleep, speak to a doctor about sleep aids. Alternatively, ask the doctor to adjust current medication dosage or time taken to ensure that they provide relief throughout the night.

woman sleeping peacefully in bed of white sheets and pillows
Sleep is important to managing arthritis pain and health overall.

8. Orthotics

There are a number of different orthotics available that can help alleviate pressure on the knee joint and therefore alleviate pain. Individually designed shoes, shoe inserts, leg braces and walking aids such as canes or walkers can all assist in alleviating pressure, stress and strain on the knee joints.

Knee braces can be especially effective at alleviating pressure and pain where significant deterioration to the cartilage and surrounding bone have occurred according to Dr. Dawn Lorring of the Cleveland Clinic.

9. Alternative Therapies

There are a wide range of alternative therapies available for the treatment of arthritis pain on the knee joint. Although there is often little scientific proof that these therapies are effective, results do show a reduction in pain in many patients who are looking for solutions other than conventional medical treatments.

Alternative treatments include massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture, meditation, etc. There is even the bar of soap in bed trick. It is recommended to try these types of therapies in conjunction with conventional medical treatments.

10. Surgery

There are two surgical procedures available to correct the wear and tear or damage that has resulted in osteoarthritis:

  • Arthroscopy where a scope is inserted through a small incision in the knee allowing the surgeon to make small incisions, smooth out wear and tear or take other steps to reduce damage to the cartilage and bone thereby alleviating pain and inflammation.
  • Osteotomy involves the removal of bone or addition of a synthetic wedge of “bone” to correct alignment in order to alleviate pressure on a nerve or nerves located in the leg.

These options will often only be considered after other treatment options have been tried and if the correct conditions exist for the surgery to be effective.

graphic comparing a normal knee joint and and arthritic knee joint

11. Knee Replacement

Knee replacement surgery, called arthroplasty, is where the damaged bone is removed from the knee joint and replaced with artificial bone normally made out of metal or plastic. This type of surgery is highly effective at alleviating all the symptoms associated with arthritis.

However, it will only be recommended as a last resort and is often not advisable for those who are still young. Wear and tear will continue to take place on the artificial knee and it will probably need to be replaced every 20 years.

I hope this information has helped you find new ways to relieve your arthritic knee pain. What other methods have your tried? Tell me about them in the comments below!

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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