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Knee Pain Relief: Non-Surgical Treatments

people exercising

When it comes to relieving knee pain, there are many different treatment options. Success varies not only by individual knee but also by what's causing your knee pain. Care for arthritis pain, for example, often involves a combination of treatments. Be sure to consult your doctor to discuss the best treatment plan for you.


Many drugs, both prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, are used to treat arthritis and control pain. Common medications are aspirin-free pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, disease modifiers, and sleep medications.

Low-impact exercise

Regular exercise, including joint and muscle exercises, is important to improve strength and flexibility. It may lessen pain, increase movement, reduce fatigue, and help you look and feel better. And when done properly, will not "wear out" joints or increase osteoarthritis.

Heat/cold therapies

Use of heat or cold over joints may provide short-term relief from pain and stiffness. Cold packs help reduce inflammation and swelling, and may be useful for flare-ups. Heat assists in relaxing muscles and increasing circulation.

Weight management

Weight loss helps to ease pain by reducing stress on your joints. After all, your knees bear the full load of your weight plus everything you carry.


Sometimes hyaluronic acid, a substance produced in natural, healthy joints, is used to provide temporary relief from knee pain. Anesthetics also may be injected with a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medicine (usually cortisone) to numb your knee and help keep pain at bay.

Physical and occupational therapy

Physical therapists can work with you to create a personalized exercise program and show you how to use therapeutic heat and massage. Occupational therapists can introduce you to all kinds of beneficial devices, such as those used to elevate chair or toilet-seat height.

Assistive devices

You can protect your knees by using a cane or other walking aid to keep from putting excess stress on them. Shoe inserts called orthotics are designed to support, align, and improve the function of your foot. In turn, they may lessen the pressure on your knees.


Different types of braces may help reduce knee pain and improve function and mobility. A "support" brace supports the entire load on your knee, and an "unloader" supports the weight on only one side, when only one side of the knee is damaged.


Particular activities to avoid include excessive stair climbing; impact-loading sports such as jogging, downhill skiing, and high-impact aerobics; physical activities involving quick stop-start motion, twisting, or impact stresses; excessive bending and kneeling; lifting or pushing heavy objects; sitting on low seating surfaces and chairs. When avoidance is not possible, try alternating periods of activity with periods of rest, so your joints don't tire from the stress of repeated tasks.

Mental health

Talking about your feelings with family members and friends, doing mental exercises such as meditations and staying positive, and joining local support groups can help you better manage your knee pain.

Nontraditional and alternative treatments

Since herbal and dietary supplements are not regulated by most healthcare and regulatory authorities, and the effectiveness of these treatments is not widely supported by accepted scientific research, it is extremely important for you to consult with your physician about all supplements and medications that you're taking or considering taking.