Medically Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Swick, MS, RDN
Knee Arthritis and Natural Knee Pain Relief
Roughly 22% of all adults suffer from knee pain and stiffness due to osteoarthritis. If you're one of them, this type of joint pain can significantly interfere with your mobility and worsen as knee osteoarthritis progresses. Osteoarthritis treatment often involves the use of over-the-counter and prescription pain relief medications. However, these traditional treatments may not fully alleviate arthritis symptoms or may cause unwanted side effects. Natural remedies for arthritis may complement or take the place of clinical interventions to provide relief.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that usually develops with age. It can affect nearly any joint, but knee arthritis is one of the most common forms. The condition develops when the knee cartilage that insulates the joint becomes worn down. Because of the knee cartilage damage, the ends of the bones rub together, and inflammation develops.
Arthritis and Osteoarthritis Symptoms
Some common symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knees include:
- Creaking, grinding, or snapping sound when you bend your knee
- Problems with mobility
- Pain that changes when the weather shifts
- Stiffness of the knee
- Knee buckling when you walk
- Redness of the skin over or around the knee
- Swelling of the knee
- Knee locking or sticking when you move
- Warm skin in the knee area
Top Arthritis Pain Relief Home Remedies
The following natural knee pain relief remedies may ease the discomfort of osteoarthritis. You may need to combine multiple treatments to enjoy complete pain relief for arthritis. Make sure to discuss any home remedies that you wish to try with your doctor, to ensure that the ones you choose are right for you.
Shed Extra Pounds
Every time you move, you exert a force equal to 1.5 times your body weight on your knees, and this pressure can exacerbate knee arthritis. If you're overweight, just modest weight loss can lead to significant improvements in mobility and the level of discomfort. For safe weight loss, count calories and aim to lose roughly 1 to 2 pounds every week. A registered dietitian can help you develop an eating plan to support weight loss.
Work Out Often
Many people with knee arthritis avoid exercise due to concerns that it may increase knee cartilage damage. However, scientific research shows that exercise is beneficial for arthritis. Strength training two to three times per week can reduce muscle loss to support mobility. Completing at least 150 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, such as walking, aids in weight management and may reduce inflammation. Also, stretching daily may help to keep the joints limber.
Refine Your Diet
Here's another reason to seek the help of a registered dietitian: a diet rich in inflammation-fighting foods may further help with joint pain relief. Antioxidants are the body's natural inflammation fighters, and omega fatty acids have been found to support joint health. Fruits, vegetables, and cold-water fatty fish are excellent additions to an arthritis-fighting diet.
Turn to Therapy
Various types of therapy may benefit knee arthritis, including:
- Physical therapy: involves completing exercises to strengthen the knee to regain mobility despite the effects of osteoarthritis
- Occupational therapy: emphasizes exercises that allow you to complete daily living tasks
- Massage therapy: supports circulation to the knee to potentially alleviate arthritis symptoms and may also lower stress levels and improve sleep
- TENS therapy: or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, delivers a mild electrical current to the knee to reduce inflammation
- Acupuncture: involves applying tiny needles to the skin in pressure point areas to alleviate pain
Find Stress Relief That Works for You
Research indicates that prolonged periods of emotional stress can increase muscle tension and intensify arthritis pain. As a result, taking steps to manage stress may lead to an improvement in symptoms. You can try:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Deep breathing
- Tai chi
- Warm baths
- Taking a weekend trip or just "unplugging" from devices for a weekend
Try Thermal Therapy
Hot and cold therapy are effective non-medicinal treatments for knee arthritis. Hot compresses work by increasing circulation to the knee, while cold compresses restrict circulation to minimize swelling. You can try:
- Heating pad
- Hot water bottle
- Ice packs
- Hot-cold topical sprays, creams, and ointments
- Press-on, hot-cold pain relief patches
Be careful never to apply a hot or cold compress directly to your skin. Wrap it in a towel or purchase a washable cover for your ice pack or hot water bottle.
Use Joint Pain Supplements
Arthritis supplements may ease knee pain without the use of medications. One popular joint health supplement is Boswellia, also known as Indian frankincense. For centuries, gum resin from this tree has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for inflammation and pain relief. One study found that patients experienced decreased pain and increased flexibility when taking Boswellia for knee pain for eight weeks. Another showed that a short 6-month course of Boswellia alleviated knee pain longer than the prescription medication valdecoxib.