- Orthopedic (muscles, bones, injury)>
- Knee arthritis>
- Treatment Overview
Knee Arthritis Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- Most mild to moderate knee arthritis can be treated at home.
- Treat with rest, ice, ibuprofen (Advil), and natural remedies.
When you may need a provider
- Severe pain or swelling
- Symptoms are not improving after 4–6 weeks of home treatments
Call 911 or go to the ER if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Redness or warmth of the knee
The suppliers listed follow Buoy’s clinical guidelines, but listing the suppliers does not constitute a referral or recommendation by Buoy. When you click on the link and/or engage with these services Buoy will be compensated.
When to see a healthcare provider
You should see a healthcare provider if your knee arthritis symptoms, like pain, swelling, and stiffness, haven’t improved after 2–6 weeks of at-home care or the pain and swelling are severe.
Knee arthritis should be treated because the pain can get worse over time. The knee may also become derformed or buckle (give out) without warning.
Getting diagnosed for knee arthritis
Your doctor can diagnose knee arthritis from an exam and your symptoms. They will check to see how well you can move your knee, whether there are signs you injured your knee, your ability to walk, and if the knee joint is unstable.
Key symptoms include pain that gets worse with activity and gets better with rest, and morning stiffness that goes away within 30 minutes. They may order X-rays to check for signs of knee arthritis, such as cysts and narrowing of the joint space.
What to expect from your visit
A doctor will discuss your current treatments. They may recommend taking OTC pain relievers, wearing a knee brace, and making lifestyle changes that include low-impact exercise or weight loss. If these don’t relieve your pain, they may prescribe stronger pain relievers or cortisone injections.
You may be referred to a physical therapist, who can develop a treatment plan to reduce your pain, prevent the knee from getting stiff, and strengthen the muscles that support your knee.
If you still have symptoms after trying these treatments, the pain is affecting your quality of life, or tests show your knee joint is beginning to deteriorate, you may need knee replacement surgery.
Prescription knee arthritis medications
- Cortisone injections
- Prescription-strength NSAIDs
- Celecoxib (Celebrex)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
Types of knee arthritis providers
- A primary care provider can usually treat knee arthritis.
- An orthopedist is a specialist in musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis. If your knee arthritis is so severe that surgery is necessary, you’ll see an orthopedic surgeon.
- A sports medicine physician has training in conditions that athletes and anyone active in sports often get.
- A physical therapist is trained in body mechanics, rehabilitation, and hands-on therapies.
How to treat knee arthritis at home
If you have symptoms of knee arthritis like pain, swelling, and stiffness, it can often be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) along with lifestyle changes, OTC medication, and natural remedies.
Lifestyle changes include low-impact exercise and losing or maintaining weight. Wearing a knee brace can make it easier to walk and be active.
Most people with arthritis may need OTC anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for the pain and inflammation. Natural remedies may also help reduce pain.
OTC medication for knee arthritis
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Diclofenac (Voltaren), a topical NSAID that’s rubbed into your skin
Tips for getting rid of knee arthritis at home?
- RICE: Rest when the pain is bad. Ice your knee. Compress the knee with an ACE wrap or nylon knee sleeve. Elevate it by putting a pillow under it while lying down.
- Wear a brace, which has metal hinges on the sides to provide more support. While braces won’t stop arthritis from getting worse, they can make it easier to walk and stay active.
- Do low-impact exercise like walking or swimming to help keep joints from getting too stiff, and to maintain your strength and conditioning.
- Some natural remedies have been found to help some people. Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements may help reduce joint pain, turmeric supplements can reduce inflammation, and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) may relieve joint pain and reduce inflammation.