As we age, the cartilage in our knees can wear down, triggering osteoarthritis and knee pain that flares up when we’re walking and climbing stairs. Medications — such as anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and injections of hyaluronic acid — are often prescribed to treat osteoarthritis knee pain.
But those aren’t your only options. Natural remedies can also be used to ease knee pain and improve your quality of life, often in combination with conventional treatments. Try these 9 tips to help relieve knee pain — just be sure to talk to your doctor before you test them out.
1. LOSE WEIGHT (IF YOU NEED TO)
Every pound you lose is less stress on your knee joints. On level ground, every step you take puts pressure on your knees equal to one and a half times your body weight. Add stairs, and the pressure on your knees increases to double or triple your body weight. That’s why it’s important to lose weight if you’re overweight, and to maintain a healthy weight once you get there. Losing weight also makes it easier to be active, and staying active is better for your knee joints than sitting still.
2. EXERCISE REGULARLY
People with osteoarthritis of the knee often shy away from exercise because it can hurt. But being fit aerobically and maintaining muscle strength is very important to avoid muscle atrophy that can make symptoms worse. In fact, according to a research about eight weeks of exercise can reduce pain in people with knee and hip osteoarthritis while boosting their quality of life.
Gentle, progressive stretching can improve blood flow and flexibility to stiff joints. Improving blood flow helps flush the joint and surrounding tissues with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and the removal of breakdown products.
In addition, gentle movement that takes you through a range of motion, such as the practice of tai chi, may help ease knee osteoarthritis pain.
4. EAT A HEALTHY, ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET
Osteoarthritis also involves inflammation of knee joints, so it seems prudent for people to eat a diet that reduces inflammatory markers. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables that are high in phytonutrients, including inflammation-fighting antioxidants such as vitamins C, D, and E and selenium. They’re also low in calories, so a diet favoring them helps you lose weight, Larson says. Add cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring, to the menu. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, also known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
5. USE ICE & HEAT THERAPY
Ice is mother nature’s anti-inflammatory. Ice can be good at the end of a long day if your knee becomes inflamed, whereas heat is good for warming up your knee in preparation for an activity. Never apply ice directly to your skin; always place a towel on your skin before applying the ice to your knee.
6. TRY ACUPUNCTURE
Some people with osteoarthritis respond to acupuncture, especially those with arthritis of the knee or spine. Acupuncture combined with moxibustion, a technique that involves burning the herb mugwort close to the skin, is a course of Chinese medical treatment for osteoarthritis. Moxibustion can be as effective as oral medications for treating knee arthritis. Your treatment should be tailored to your disease stage and may include acupuncture, acupressure, and moxibustion.
7. MEET OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST
An occupational therapist can suggest ways to minimize stress on your knees as you go about your daily routine. One strategy that can ease joint strain: Always sit in a chair that has arms; that way, you can push off them when you stand up. Your occupational therapist can also recommend assistive devices that make it easier to stand up, like kneelers.
8. LOWER YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Stress can worsen plenty of chronic conditions and knee osteoarthritis is no exception. Stress can cause muscle tension, which then increases the perception of pain. And that, the organization notes, can trigger frustration and even depression.
To break the cycle, try to find a relaxation therapy that fits your lifestyle. Deep breathing (slow inhalations, followed by slow exhalations), meditation, progressive relaxation, and yoga can all help ease your stress levels and make it easier for you to stay relaxed.
9. GET MASSAGE THERAPY
Massage therapy can help reduce knee pain at least in the short term and people noticed a reduction in their symptoms, felt more relaxed, and experienced improvements in their quality of life.