9 Proven Knee Pain Treatments and When You Need Them

From science-backed natural remedies to the drugs and procedures that really work, here are the top treatments to relieve knee pain.

Healing Foods

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They go straight to your knees. Drinking 1 percent or fat-free milk helped women put the brakes on knee osteoarthritis in one study. Other research indicates that 
people who eat fruit with 
vitamin C show fewer signs of 
heading toward osteoarthritis than those who don’t. In another study, 
a daily 510 mg ginger extract supplement improved the knee pain of 
arthritis patients.

Smart Exercise

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Definitely don’t stop working out. Staying active builds muscles that support the knee joint. Two things to avoid if you have pain: running and doing full leg extensions with a resistance machine. Better bets: walking, bicycling, and “closed kinetic chain” exercises, in which the foot stays planted (as on an elliptical trainer).

Glucosamine/Chondroitin

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Some knees respond; some don’t. That’s why the benefit looks statistically nonexistent, on average, in studies. Try it for two to three months: That’s when it will help if it’s going to.

Weight Loss

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Every pound you lose feels like five fewer pounds to the knee. Exercise and a healthy diet can each help you lose, but dropping pounds by combining the two is the gold standard for relieving pain and restoring function, according to one recent study.

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Ice

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Frozen peas pair nicely with swelling and pain. Whether you injure your knee or suffer an arthritis flare-up, ice molded around the joint for 20 minutes every hour helps bring down inflammation.

NSAIDs

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Medication like ibuprofen (Advil) 
is better than acetaminophen 
(Tylenol). If your stomach can take it, pop the drug for ten to 14 days. “That’s more effective than stopping and starting,” says Elizabeth 
Matzkin, MD, of the American 
Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Injections

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Corticosteroids can ease knee pain by reducing inflammation when 
injected directly into the joint. They work well but temporarily. Repeated injections may deteriorate cartilage, so doctors usually limit shots to three or four times a year.

Knee Replacement

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If less-invasive options fail, consider surgery. A surgeon resurfaces the ends of the femur and tibia (upper and lower leg bones) where they meet and replaces damaged cartilage with metal and plastic implants. It’s the most drastic option, but it could save your stair-climbing career.

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Platelet-Rich Plasma

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Blood gets removed, treated, and then injected into the joint with 
concentrated proteins called growth factors. Platelet-rich plasma has been used by athletes for sprains; now there’s early evidence that it helps with knee pain. If it holds up 
in more studies, the method might go mainstream in a few years.

Sources: Michael J. Stuart, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota; Allen D. Sawitzke, MD, associate professor at the University of Utah Hospital & Clinics; Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

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