If you have mild to moderate knee pain, you can often treat it at home. Whether due to a sprain or arthritis, there are several ways to manage it.
Pain due to inflammation, arthritis, or a minor injury will often resolve without medical help. Home remedies can improve your comfort levels and help you manage symptoms.
But if pain is moderate to severe, or if symptoms persist or get worse, you may need to seek medical attention for a full assessment.
Read on for more information about alternative therapies and supplements that may help ease your knee pain.
Home Remedies for Knee Pain
Try RICE for strains and sprains
If you’ve twisted your leg, taken a fall, or otherwise strained or sprained your knee, it can be helpful to remember the acronym “RICE”:
Get off your feet and apply a cold compress or bag of ice to the knee. Frozen vegetables, such as peas, will also work if you have no ice handy.
Wrap your knee with a compression bandage to prevent swelling, but not so tightly it cuts off circulation. While you’re resting, keep your foot elevated.
Buy compression bandages and cold compresses online.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese form of mind-body exercise that improves balance and flexibility.
In a 2009 study, researchers found that practicing tai chi is especially beneficial for people with osteoarthritis (OA). Guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation recommend it as a treatment option for OA.
Tai chi can help reduce pain and increase range of motion. It also involves deep breathing and relaxation. These aspects may also help reduce stress and help you manage chronic pain.
Daily exercise can help you keep your muscles strong and maintain mobility. It’s an essential tool for treating OA and other causes of knee pain.
Resting the leg or limiting movement may help you avoid pain, but it can also stiffen the joint and slow recovery. In the case of OA, not enough exercise may speed up the rate of damage to the joint.
Experts have found that, for people with OA, practicing with another person can be especially beneficial. This could be a personal trainer or an exercise buddy. Experts also advise people to find an activity they enjoy.
Low-impact activities are a good option, such as:
- swimming or water exercise
- tai chi or yoga
However, you may need to rest from exercise if you have:
- an injury, such as a sprain or a strain
- severe knee pain
- a flare-up of symptoms
When you return to activity after an injury, you may need to choose a more gentle option than you usually use.
Ask your doctor or a physical therapist to help you design a program that’s suitable for you, and adapt it as your symptoms change.
Overweight and obesity can put additional pressure on your knee joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, an additional 10 pounds of weight can add between 15 and 50 pounds of pressure to a joint.
The foundation also notes the links between obesity and inflammation. For example, people with a high body mass index (BMI) have a greater chance of developing OA of the hand than those with a low BMI.
If a long-term health problem is causing pain in your knees, weight management might help relieve symptoms by reducing the pressure on them.
If you have knee pain and a high BMI, your doctor can help you set a target weight and make a plan to help you reach your goal. This will likely include dietary changes and exercise.
Heat and cold therapy
A heating pad can help relieve pain while resting your knee. Cold treatment can help reduce inflammation.
Here are some tips for applying heat and cold therapy:
- Alternate between cold and heat.
- Apply heat for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- For the first 2 days after an injury, apply cold pads for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day.
- Use a gel pack or other cold pack more often during the first 24 hours after the injury.
- Never apply ice directly to the skin.
- Check that a heat pad isn’t too hot before applying.
- Don’t use heat therapy if your joint is warm during a flare.
- A warm shower or bath in the morning may ease stiff joints.
Paraffin and ointments containing capsaicin are other ways to apply heat and cold.