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12 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Knee Pain

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 and injections of corticosteroids or 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, says William Martin, MD, a rheumatologist at UCLA Health in Los Angeles. Try these 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,” Dr. Martin says. On level ground, every step you take puts pressure on your knees equal to one and a half times your body weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing. 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, Martin notes. 

2. Exercise Regularly


The Arthritis Foundation details six exercises specifically for people with knee osteoarthritis to help keep their knees strong, including mini-squats and quad and hamstring stretches. Start slowly and build up the number of reps you do. You can also work with a physical therapist to tailor exercises to your condition, suggests William Behrns, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

3. Stretch, Too


Gentle, progressive stretching can improve blood flow and flexibility to stiff joints, says Shawn Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, and author of Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living. “Improving blood flow helps flush the joint and surrounding tissues with the delivery of oxygen and nutrients and the removal of breakdown products,” he says.

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, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Tai chi also makes the list of the American College of Rheumatology recommendations for managing knee arthritis.

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,” says Kim Larson, RDN, a certified nutrition and health coach based in Palmetto, Florida. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables that are high in phytonutrients, including inflammation-fighting antioxidants like 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, which also have anti-inflammatory properties. 

5. Use Ice and Heat Therapy


“Ice is mother nature’s anti-inflammatory,” says Darwin Chen, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in joint replacement surgery of the hip and knee and an associate professor of orthopedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“Ice can be good at the end of a long day if your knee becomes inflamed,” he says, 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, according to the Arthritis Foundation, citing a growing body of research about the benefits. For example, according to a 2022 systematic review of randomized clinical trials, acupuncture showed beneficial effects on pain relief and improved function, and the authors recommended it as an alternative therapy option specifically for patients with knee osteoarthritis. (The authors also noted that further research was needed).

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, says Ming Jin, PhD, an acupuncturist and founder of the Ming Qi Natural Healthcare Center in New York City. Moxibustion can be as effective as oral medications for treating knee arthritis, according to a study published in the journal Medicine. Your treatment should be tailored to your disease stage and may include acupuncture, acupressure, and moxibustion, Dr. Jin notes.

7. Sign Up for Physical Therapy


Physical therapy can be another effective option for people looking for relief from knee osteoarthritis. Be sure to connect with a licensed therapist who has experience dealing with knee pain, advises the American Physical Therapy Association, which offers a helpful find-a-therapist tool that allows you to search therapists nationwide, and then filter by expertise. 

One study noted strong supporting evidence on the benefits of physical therapy for people with osteoarthritis of the knees and hips, and especially as an option to consider before any contemplation of surgery. And beyond just pain management, the authors noted an overall improvement in patients’ health and quality of life.

8. Recruit an Occupational Therapist


An occupational therapist can suggest ways to minimize stress on your knees as you go about your daily routine, says Jane McCabe, MS, an occupational therapist based in Georgetown, Texas.

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, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

9. Lower Your Stress Levels


Stress can worsen plenty of chronic conditions — and knee osteoarthritis is no exception. The Arthritis Foundation says that 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.

10. Get Massage Therapy


Massage therapy can help reduce knee pain — at least in the short term, according to a research review. And another study found that people noticed a reduction in their symptoms, felt more relaxed, and experienced improvements in their quality of life.

It’s not clear how massage helps ease knee osteoarthritis symptoms, but one theory is that it lowers production of neurotransmitters that are linked to pain, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Because it simply feels good, massage can also help relieve stress and even help you sleep better, the foundation adds. 

11. Ask About Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)


This type of high-frequency electrical stimulation through the skin can help reduce knee osteoarthritis pain, Behrns says. It works by overriding the pain signals in your body with an electric current, according to the Arthritis Foundation. You can buy a TENS unit for your own use or go to a physiotherapist to have it administered in a healthcare facility. Keep in mind, as with all natural remedies for knee pain, not everyone will see improvements in their symptoms.

12. Talk to Your Doctor About Supplements


Some studies show that curcumin (found in the spice turmeric) may be able to reduce knee pain in people who have osteoarthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. While glucosamine and chondroitin also have been used by some people to ease knee pain, the results have been inconclusive; these supplements haven’t been shown to be very effective, and the American College of Rheumatology’s guidelines advise people with knee osteoarthritis to avoid them. If you’re thinking about taking supplements, be aware that they can interfere with certain medications, so always talk to your doctor before starting a supplement regimen.