10 Dos and Don’Ts for Managing Knee Osteoarthritis Pain


According to various studies, approximately 31 million people live with the pain of osteoarthritis- the degenerative form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in adults and often occurs in the knee joints. Once the disease process has begun, there is no way to reverse joint damage, which is why preventing knee osteoarthritis from progressing is so important. The possibility of developing symptoms of osteoarthritis increases with each decade of your life, especially between the ages of 55 and 64.

The number of people affected by osteoarthritis has steadily increased in recent decades, possibly due to rising obesity rates and an aging population. Among US military veterans, the prevalence is even higher. As per the Arthritis Foundation, one in three veterans suffers from arthritis.

Osteoarthritis symptoms develop over time rather slowly. Your knees can hurt while (or after) you move them, and they can feel tender if you press on them even lightly. If you’ve been inactive for a while, your knees may feel stiff, or you may not be able to move them through their full range of motion. You may even feel or hear a grinding sensation when you move your knees.

These symptoms occur due to changes in cartilage, the solid tissue between joints that helps with movement. When cartilage becomes rough or wears away completely, it causes the bone to rub against other bones.


During the physical exam, your doctor will examine the affected joint for tenderness, swelling, redness, and flexibility.

Imaging Tests

To obtain images of the affected joint, your doctor may recommend:


Cartilage does not show up on X-rays, but cartilage loss shows up as a narrowing of the space between the bones of the joint. An X-ray may also show bone spurs around a joint.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of bone and soft tissue, including cartilage. An MRI is not usually required to diagnose osteoarthritis, but it can help provide more information in complex cases.

Laboratory Tests

Test your blood or synovial fluid to confirm the diagnosis.

1) Blood Tests: Although there is no blood test for osteoarthritis, certain tests can help rule out other causes of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis to rule out.

2) Analysis Of Joint Fluids: Your doctor may use a needle to remove fluid from an affected joint. The fluid is then tested for inflammation to determine if the pain is caused by gout or infection rather than osteoarthritis.


Osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, but treatment can reduce pain and help you move better.

1) Medications

Medications that may help relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, primarily pain, include:


Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) has been shown to help some people with osteoarthritis who have mild to moderate pain. Taking more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen can cause liver damage.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)

NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), taken at recommended doses, generally relieve osteoarthritis pain. Stronger NSAIDs are available by prescription.

NSAIDs can cause upset stomach, cardiovascular problems, bleeding problems, and liver and kidney damage. Gel-form NSAIDs applied to the skin over the affected joint have fewer side effects and are just as effective at relieving pain.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

This medication is typically used as an antidepressant and is also approved to treat chronic pain, including pain from osteoarthritis.

2) Therapy


A physical therapist involves exercises that help to strengthen the muscles around the joint, increase flexibility, and reduce pain. Regular and gentle exercise such as swimming or walking, can be just as effective.

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist can help you find ways to complete everyday tasks without putting additional stress on your already sore joint. For example, a toothbrush with a large handle could make brushing your teeth easier if you have osteoarthritis in your hands. A bench in the shower can help relieve the pain of standing if you have knee osteoarthritis.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (Tens)

It uses a low-voltage electrical current to relieve pain. Provides short-term relief for some people with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip.

3) Surgical and Other Procedures

If conservative treatments don’t help, you may want to consider procedures such as:

Cortisone Injections

Corticosteroid injections into the joint can relieve pain for a few weeks. Your doctor will numb the area around the joint, then insert a needle into the space inside the joint and inject the medicine. The number of cortisone injections you can get per year is generally limited to three or four because the drug can worsen joint damage over time.

Sliding Injections

Hyaluronic acid injections can reduce pain by providing some cushioning in the knee, although some research suggests these injections provide no more relief than a placebo. Hyaluronic acid is like a component normally found in synovial fluid.

Realignment Of Bones

If osteoarthritis has damaged one side of the knee more than the other, an osteotomy can help. In a knee osteotomy, a surgeon cuts the bone above or below the knee and then removes or adds a wedge of bone. This takes your body weight off the worn part of your knee.

Joint Replacement

In joint replacement surgery, your surgeon removes damaged joint surfaces and replaces them with plastic and metal parts. Surgical risks include infection and blood clots. Artificial joints can wear out or become loose and may need to be replaced.

10 Things to Do for Fighting Osteoarthritis

1. Stay Active

Exercise might be the last thing you want to do when your arthritis hurts. However, many studies show that physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your quality of life. Exercise increases your energy. It can also strengthen muscles and bones and help keep joints flexible. Try resistance training to build stronger muscles.

Your muscles protect and support joints affected by arthritis. Do aerobic exercise to burn calories and that will help you lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight relieves sore joints. Of course, if you have a bad flare-up, it’s best not to exercise until the pain subsides.

2. Eat A Balanced Diet

Studies show that a variety of nutrients can help relieve arthritis symptoms. Foods rich in vitamin C, especially fruits and vegetables, can help. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil may also help reduce pain. Experts say it’s best to focus on healthy foods rather than individual nutrients.

You can get all the nutrients you need simply by eating a balanced diet. Make sure your menu includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, and lean meats like turkey and pork tenderloin. Also, choose healthy fats like nuts and avocados, and healthy oils like olive and canola oil.

3. Lose Weight

Being overweight puts undue stress on weight-bearing joints such as the knees, spine, hips, ankles, and feet. Losing weight can relieve arthritis symptoms. Losing and keeping pounds is not easy. Think in small steps. Make small changes each day that will help you eat smaller portions and burn more calories.

4. To Sleep Well

A good night’s sleep will help you cope with the pain and stress of arthritis. To sleep better, try to go to bed at the same time every night. Remove distractions like TVs and computers from your bedroom. If arthritis makes you uncomfortable in bed, try using pillows to take pressure off aching joints. If you have frequent trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor.

5. Use Hot or Cold Compresses

By increasing blood flow, hot compresses can relieve pain and stiffness. Cold compresses reduce swelling. You may want to experiment with heat packs versus cold packs to see what works best for you.

6. Keep Pain Under Control

Over-the-counter medications can help relieve arthritis pain. One of the most common is acetaminophen (Tylenol and store brands) because it doesn’t cause an upset stomach. However, taking more than recommended increases the likelihood of side effects, including liver problems. Other over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium may also help.

Possible side effects include stomach irritation and bleeding. Read the labels carefully to make sure you are taking the medicine correctly. Also, do not take painkillers for more than 10 days without talking to your doctor.

7. Talk to Your Doctor About Dietary Supplements And Complementary Medicine

Many supplements have been tried to treat arthritis. Glucosamine and SAMe are the most promising. Glucosamine, often along with chondroitin, helped reduce pain in some studies but not in others.

Some medical research shows that SAMe, a chemical found in the body, may work as well as some over-the-counter medications, although more research is needed. If you try the supplements, you may need to take them for a month. or more before you feel the full effects.

People with arthritis also turn to treatments like acupuncture and massage. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce knee pain and improve function. Massage can increase blood flow and warm up aching joints. Make sure you find a trained doctor who has experience working with people with arthritis.

8. Try Splints, Braces, And Other Aids.

Aids that support painful joints, such as splints, braces, and canes, can help relieve your discomfort and prevent injury. Other items such as electric can openers and shower chairs can also make everyday life easier.

9. Find Support

Living with arthritis is not easy. It can be helpful to find other people to talk to and share ideas with. Check out arthritis support groups online or in your local area.

10. Stay Positive

Your mental attitude can have a huge impact on how you feel and how well you function. Try to do something you enjoy every day. Spend time with friends. Create hobbies you can do even with arthritis. Focus on your abilities instead of your disabilities.

What to Avoid

Do Not Engage in Repetitive, High-Intensity Exercise That Can Damage Your Joints

Exercises that stress the joints, like running and tennis, can put a lot of strain on your already damaged knees. It’s a vicious circle because this type of exercise causes more pain. You stop using your muscles because they hurt, you lose strength, and then your alignment isn’t good either. This can also result in the need for joint replacement surgery. Listen to your body and if is painful, don’t do it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Assistive Devices If You Suffer from Osteoarthritis of The Knee

Sticks and knee braces can play a role in relieving knee osteoarthritis pain and improving function. There may be a time when knee pain becomes disabling, but it’s not the right time for surgery so assistive devices can make a difference. An occupational therapist can work with you to select the appropriate tools.

Don’t Ignore New or Worsening Symptoms of Knee Osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis is a chronic condition, which means pain is always a possibility. However, if the pain increases and occurs at rest rather than after exertion, or wakes you from sleep, it could mean that your knee osteoarthritis is progressing.

Other symptoms like swelling, a locked knee, or one that just gives out are also a concern. Let your doctor know about any new or worsening symptoms, as an adjustment to your treatment plan may be needed.

Don’t Forget to Stretch

The knee muscles can be tight, which can lead to painful injuries. Daily stretching can prevent this and sore muscles. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for simple movements to help you get fit before walking or engaging in other activities.

Don’t Sleep in The Wrong Position

This can make knee pain worse. Try different positions and put a pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side. However, do not rest a bent knee on a pillow as it may become more difficult to loosen the leg the next day.

Don’t Tire Your Knees

Your knee can hurt because you put stress on your joints. Movements that you perform repeatedly, such as climbing stairs every day can shake and fatigue your knees. But don’t sit too long either. This creates extra pressure between the knee and the leg bone, which can cause pain.

Don’t Always Wear the Same Old Shoes

Shoes can stretch and wear out after a while. Don’t keep wearing your favourite pair after the support and sole have worn out. You may find that new shoes that support your feet and ankles help reduce knee pain.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.

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