If you experience pain and discomfort in the knees, you are not alone. Every year, about 18 million people visit a healthcare provider to treat their knee pain. It can interfere with daily activities such as exercise, climbing stairs and housework. For many people, this pain stems from osteoarthritis, a chronic, degenerative condition that causes inflammation of the joints due to the gradual breakdown of the knee cartilage. It is the most common form of arthritis and is said to affect about 30% of the population.
You should seek medical attention if you experience severe pain or worsen symptoms. For those with mild or moderate knee pain, there are many natural remedies that you can turn to at home for relief, from current treatments to lifestyle changes.
You may have just come home from a long run and find that your knees are in a slight discomfort, but you want to avoid taking an oral medication to relieve your pain. Some current treatments available there can help.
Cream and Rubs Capsaicin
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers that, when used in the form of oils, creams and transdermal skin blemishes, can relieve pain. Capsaicin is the cause of the burning sensation you associate with chili peppers, and some research suggests that it depletes the nerve cells of chemicals that send pain messages to your brain.
A 2014 report found consistent evidence that capsaicin treatments are effective in relieving osteoarthritis pain. However, capsaicin products offer only temporary relief. Some doctors recommend that it be applied many times a day. You should also try it on a small area of skin first to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction. Also, avoid applying capsaicin products to broken skin or open wounds.
Essential oils refer to concentrated plant extracts that are distilled into oils, widely used in modern alternative medicine, but which have been part of medical treatments for centuries. Essential oils are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so anyone who uses them should be careful. These oils are a key ingredient in aromatherapy, in which fragrances from these herbal products have been shown to release signals to the brain to relieve pain, especially when it comes to arthritis.
A 2016 study examined how this type of aromatherapy with essential oil can affect pain from osteoarthritis of the knee. In one study, 90 people were randomly divided into three groups: those who received an aromatherapy massage with lavender essential oil, a placebo group who received an almond oil massage, and a control group without massage. This essential oil therapy significantly reduced pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee compared to the other two groups.
Arnica is a popular example of an essential oil that has been used to relieve pain. It is a plant found in North America and Europe, and the oils derived from it have been suggested to relieve the pain of osteoarthritis.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are common pain medications used to treat diseases such as tendonitis and arthritis, among others. They are available without a prescription as ibuprofen or as a prescription. Topical NSAIDs are given to relieve joint pain. Diclofenac products have been approved in the United States since 2007, and are available in the form of liquids, patches, and gels. They are usually prescribed for osteoarthritis pain in the knee.
Natural supplements are another common way to relieve the discomfort from knee pain.
Turmeric is a spice that has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. While there is not much research on its effectiveness in relieving pain, one analysis showed that it improved the symptoms of osteoarthritis, but the authors noted that “more rigorous and larger studies are needed to confirm the therapeutic efficacy of turmeric for arthritis. “.
Ginger has been shown to treat osteoarthritis and could potentially be a substitute for NSAIDs. In a study of 247 participants, knee pain was significantly reduced among 63% of those given therapeutic ginger products compared with 50% of those in the placebo group.
A 2018 review found that vitamin E supplements can be beneficial for knee pain because of its antioxidant qualities. The authors concluded that “vitamin E can delay the progression of osteoarthritis by improving oxidative stress and joint inflammation.” However, they also cited that further studies are guaranteed.
Glucoazmine / Chondroitin
Research has been mixed on the pain relieving effects of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. A 2016 study of glucosamine and chondroitin looked at 164 people with knee pain from osteoarthritis. It actually stopped early because those who were on the supplement had worse symptoms than those who took the placebo version of the supplement. Be sure to consult your provider first before using this supplement to manage your osteoarthritis symptoms.
Some research has shown that this common pain reliever can be helpful for knee pain. A study of 50 men and women aged 40 to 76 years showed that a dose of 3 grams of methylsulfonylmethane twice daily improved knee pain and physical function. The researchers said more studies need to be done on the supplement.
Check with your pharmacist
As with any medication regimen, be sure to discuss with your provider any other medications in which you are discussing treatments for your knee pain. Be sure to consult your pharmacist about any possible interactions that may have a new supplement with other medicines and herbal products you are currently taking.
Beyond current supplements and treatments, a range of therapies can help relieve your chronic knee pain:
- Ice or heat: Ice and heat therapies can help with arthritis joint pain. Rheumatologists say heat compresses or patches generally work best for relieving knee pain from osteoarthritis, but some people find that cooling helps alleviate their pain better.
- Massage: Massage therapy is a common alternative for relieving knee pain. While there are many types of this therapy, a simple self-massage, mixing sore joints with joints, hands or massage tools, can help relieve knee pain.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist can help you understand how your knees work, where the pain is located, and can use manual therapy and massage, ultrasound to treat spasms, and electrical stimulation.
Some knee pain interventions include simple changes to your lifestyle and habits, including:
- Diet: A well-rounded diet rich in plant-based foods, fish, whole grains, nuts and beans can help manage the symptoms and pain of arthritis. The Mediterranean diet, fish oils, green tea, spices and herbs have been found to soothe inflammation and morning stiffness in the joints.
- Exercise: A 2013 summary shows that therapeutic exercises like aerobic exercise, strength training and swimming, among others, have been proven to relieve inflammation, strengthen joints and strengthen your knees.
- Tai Chi: This mind-body practice includes a series of slow-motion exercises, meditation, and rhythmic breathing. It has been shown to help with knee pain and arthritis. Government-funded research has shown that the practice reduces pain and improves knee function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Listening to music: The simple act of listening to music can be psychologically and physically therapeutic. Music therapy can be accompanied by physical therapy techniques. It can also help relieve pain and stress.
- Reduce stress: Finding ways to relieve mental stress can alleviate physical pain. This can be achieved through exercise, listening to music, and practicing meditation. Stress affects the part of the brain that sends nerve signals throughout your body, including your knees.
A Word From Verywell
The pain that touches our knees can hinder the way we do our lives. Given that it can affect everything from your ability to take a walk outside, to enjoy the holidays, it is important to treat knee pain when you notice it, especially if it is due to osteoarthritis. As with any health condition, consult your doctor about the best ways to treat your pain. Before using any over-the-counter or over-the-counter pain relieving medication, consult your medical team if that treatment is right for you.