If you have ever suffered from knee pain, you know how destructive it can be to leading an active life. Thankfully there are natural remedies for knee pain. In some instances, depending on the reason for the pain, you can get rid of it entirely—or at the very least, you can manage the pain so that it does not get in the way of leading an active and happy life.
While medical doctors might be prone to prescribe drugs and surgery and you aren’t keen on those options, you still need to see a medical doctor to assess what’s causing your pain. Is it inflammation due to injury or arthritis? Is it a severe injury, or something that can heal over time? Your doctor or an osteopath will be able to tell you what’s wrong and how severe it is. They can also refer you to specialists and physiotherapists that might very well help you heal naturally.
While you can treat minor injury, inflammation, and mild arthritis at home, severe cases of the same may require surgery or drugs temporarily prescribed by your doctor. Even if you choose to use home remedies or alternative medicine, it’s important to have an open dialogue with your doctor and have a follow-up examination to ensure that your chosen treatments are working and not making the problem worse.
What Causes Knee Pain?
There are many reasons you may suffer knee pain. It could be that you’ve overexerted yourself, it can be the pain due to wear and tear of muscles and ligaments, it can be strains and sprains, it can be inflammation whether due to an injury or arthritis, or it can be a severe injury. In rare cases, it’s also due to other medical conditions.
If you walk/run up and down hills a lot or partake in sports that involve a lot of running and jumping, your knees can get worn out. A common syndrome is runner’s knee, or “patellofemoral (puh-tel-o-FEM-uh-rul) pain syndrome [which] is a pain at the front of your knee, around your kneecap (patella).” (1)
Likewise, if you have a physically strenuous job that keeps you on your feet all day long or involves heavy physical labor, your knees can get injured over time or due to overexertion. If you kneel a lot in your work or suffer a blow to your knee, you can develop knee bursitis. “Knee bursitis is an inflammation of a small fluid-filled sac (bursa) situated near your knee joint.” (2)
With age, many people develop arthritis—most commonly, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Arthritis is an inflammation in your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that first targets the lining of joints, while osteoarthritis “occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time.” It’s the most common form of arthritis and often occurs in the knees. (3) (4)
Another common cause of knee pain is iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS or IT band syndrome), which is an overuse injury of the connective tissues that are located on the lateral or outer part of the thigh and knee. (5)
Sports injuries and injuries, in general, are another common cause of knee pain. These injuries can cause some of the previously mentioned syndromes as well as pain from the initial injury.
As there are many reasons for knee pain, it’s important to have your knee examined by a medical practitioner before you start your own treatment plan.
As counterintuitive as it may seem when suffering pain in your knees, exercise is one of the best ways to manage the pain. Joints that have been affected by arthritis get stiff and more painful if you do not move about. Swimming and sometimes walking can be effective for this.
Another important aspect of exercise is building muscles that help you support your knees. Usually different kind of squats are involved in this, but it’s important you speak to a physiotherapist or a personal trainer about what muscles you need to train to take away some of the strain on your knees.
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One study found that “Tai Chi reduces pain and improves physical function, self-efficacy, depression and health-related quality of life for knee [osteoarthritis].” In other words, if you are suffering from arthritis, it seems like an excellent idea to start practicing Tai Chi! (6)
Carrying excess weight means your knees have to work harder. Therefore, losing weight can help alleviate knee pain. In addition to that, eating a healthy diet that’s good for your joints—i.e., foods containing omega-3 oils and lots of vegetables—may help reduce inflammation. Which leads us to the next point…
There are several foods that have been linked to lowering inflammation in the body, including foods rich in omega-3 oils, such as oily fish, vegetables—including cruciferous vegetables and green leafy vegetables—nuts, berries, and olive oil. (7)
Obviously, getting your vitamins and minerals is also vital, so take a good multivitamin that includes calcium to help your bones. Other supplements that may be effective include MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate as well as gelatin.
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Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices
Several herbs and spices have proven effective in combating inflammation, including willow bark, ginger, turmeric, and cayenne pepper and other chilis. Chili contains capsaicinoids, which can even be bought in creams to apply directly on the knee. (8) (9)
Another study also found that applying a salve made from cinnamon, ginger, mastic, and sesame oil was as effective as arthritis creams available in pharmacies. (10)
As almost all knee injuries cause inflammation, it’s extremely important to try to combat it. Do your research to find out which combination of herbs and spices works best for you to include in your diet in addition to applying ointments.
Combating Strains and Sprains with R.I.C.E.
A well-known method for combating knee pain when an injury is present is R.I.C.E.: (11)
Heat and Cold Therapy
If you suffer stiff joints and want to relieve stiffness and get pain relief, another technique is heat and cold therapy—simply applying alternating hot and cold compresses. Beware that just after having an injury, cold is the best remedy (sometimes heat can make it worse or increase swelling and inflammation) and in the days just after the injury, you should apply more of cold than heat. (11)
If you are suffering from knee pain, it’s important to assess what the problem is and then take steps to effectively combat it. Most likely, inflammation is involved, and you can help combat that by eating a healthy diet with various herbs and spices as well as applying herbal salves. In addition, it’s important to effectively manage your weight and exercise the muscles that help support your knees, thereby removing pressure from them.