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Knee Arthritis: Make the Pain Go Away!

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

By: Sheila Borgen, PT

You are in good company if you think the hip is the largest joint in the body. Most patients I spend time with think the same thing. Many are astonished when I tell them that the largest joint in the human body is actually the knee. The knee joint has many essential functions, including supporting the weight of your body and absorbing shock as you walk, run, or jump. It is also quite crucial in helping you maintain your balance. It’s no wonder that so many people develop pain in their knees. In fact, ~20% of the US population with knee pain has been diagnosed and treated for knee osteoarthritis! Osteoarthritis results when the cartilage, the protective tissue at the ends of bones, gets worn down allowing the ends of the bones to come into contact with each other. Ouch!

I thought it would be fun to see how the general population, when left to their own devices, treated their knee arthritis. Some of the answers I received include using ointments such as Biofreeze or good old Icy Hot. Others stated they used CBD oil. One individual told me they went to great lengths to get Emu oil from an Emu farm to rub on their knees. Still, others stated they just stopped moving and living life. How sad!

Physicians have a conglomerate of suggestions regarding knee pain. Some doctors prescribe medications. Others offer steroid injections or gel injections. A few orthopedists even provide stem cell injections to promote the repair of damaged tissue. A knee replacement may be necessary when knee pain is too extreme and with extensive damage.

I’m here to offer you some additional suggestions for knee pain relief. I am not suggesting that I have a cure-all or that my strategies can prevent the need for surgery. I am, however, going to hang my hat on the fact that the following suggestions may decrease your pain intensity, improve your quality of life, or help you survive a bit longer while awaiting the surgical procedure that may be inevitable for you.

  1. Listen to your body. Pain is an alarm your body gives to you to warn you of potential harm. Pain tells you that an injury may occur if you continue with your current activity. For example, if you have a significant increase in knee pain after walking through the mall, you may need to add some sitting rest breaks. Or walk slightly less distance.

  2. Use adaptive equipment such as a shower chair when bathing, an elevated commode seat over the toilet, or a lift chair to assist you in getting up and down. I caution you not to use the lift chair on your good, pain-free days as you will then potentially cause a decrease in your overall ability to stand up.

  3. Many Americans use walkers or canes when walking. This may be due to balance loss, fear of falling, or while recovering from surgery. Walkers or canes can also be beneficial when managing pain, as a cane can support up to ~25% of your body weight and a walker up to ~50%.

  4. Physical therapy is a great option for knee pain management! A skilled physical therapist can provide a tailored exercise program to improve strength and stability in your joints. They are knowledgeable in aerobic and neuromuscular exercises to address your deficits and decrease pain which leads to less time away from your desired activities and a reduced need for pain killers. Therapists also have many other techniques at their fingertips. For example, electrical stimulation, taping, and massage have decreased overall knee pain and can be used in conjunction with skilled therapy treatment.

I hope I have offered some valuable suggestions to help manage knee pain. Remember that just because one treatment method works for your neighbor does not mean it will work for you. Additionally, what works today to reduce your pain may not work tomorrow. Be flexible and diligent not to overdo your activity on your “good days,” or you risk running out of those precious “good days”! Good luck on your journey!

Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 24 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population. Learn more about Sheila at

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