Discover The Different Types Of Treament Available For Arthritis Pain In The Knees
Knee arthritis limits mobility and range of motion. It causes tenderness, swelling, stiffness and instability. It can even lead to deformity.
Basically, the condition damages the cartilage in knee joints through degeneration, inflammation or trauma. But there are lots of options open to you when it comes to treatment.
The types of arthritis that normally affect knee joints are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and post-traumatic arthritis.
Treatment guidelines for osteoarthritis of the knee published by the Osteoarthritis Research Society International include drug and non-drug remedies, surgery and a combination of treatments for optimal outcomes.
The treatments are explained below.
Non Medication Remedies
Once arthritis is diagnosed, your health practitioner may recommend a treatment option involving non-medication remedies.
Self care, where a patient is actively involved in managing their own condition, plays an important role in the improvement of symptoms. The ORSI says studies have shown there is significant improvement of up to a year in knee pain and function in patients who actively engage in their own self care.
Weight Loss and Lifestyle Changes
Excess body weight puts extra pressure on the knee joints. This raises the risk of developing arthritis of the knees, and aggravates pain in patients who already have the condition.
The ORSI recommends maintenance of acceptable body weight, and weight loss if you are overweight. Weight loss reduces the stress on knee joints and has been shown to lessen arthritis pain on knee and hip joints.
Pain Management Devices
The Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation technique works by application of a weak electric current through specially designed device. These are better known as ‘TENS machines’.
The current interferes with transmission of pain messages to the brain. It can help in managing arthritis pain in the knees for the short term.
Application of heat and cold packs can also be used to ease arthritis pain. Some patients report that taking a warm bath or applying a heat or cold pack soothes the pain.
Physical therapy has been shown to be useful in reducing arthritis pain and improving the function of knee joints.
Besides recommending useful ongoing exercises, physical therapy can also include devices that help arthritis patients to perform everyday tasks with greater ease.
Muscle Strengthening Exercises
Adopting a rounded exercise program is useful in the management of arthritis pain. Extremely vigorous and high impact exercises such as jumping and running should of course be replaced with gentler exercises.
Recommended exercises, such as aerobics, and water-based exercises help to improve the motion range of knee joints, strengthen muscles and lessen the pain.
These help to ease the pressure on knee joints. Knee braces have been shown to improve stability in the joints, which in turn reduces the risk of injury from falls. Braces provide support and reduce arthritis pain.
Walking aids such as canes and crutches can also be used. Special footwear and insoles absorb some of the stress from the knees and help to reduce pain and improve walking.
Drug Based Treatments
Medications are often used in treating arthritis. These include pain medications and anti-inflammation drugs.
Pain relievers, such as Tylenol (paracetamol), are commonly used as initial treatment for arthritis of the knees. Anti-inflammation drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can also help reduce inflammation and swelling.
These are pain killers applied directly on the painful joints to relieve the symptoms. The most commonly used topical analgesics are non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs and Capsaicin (the substance that provides the heat in chilli peppers).
These can be used together with oral pain medications. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly prescribed to treat arthritis pain, particularly in patients with low risk of developing gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side effects.
These are normally injected directly to the affected joints to reduce moderate to severe pain, swelling and inflammation especially in cases that fail to respond to oral pain medications.
The drug can be injected in the same location for up to four times in a year.
Oral Supplements Like Glucosamine/Chondroitin
Oral supplements can also be prescribed to treat arthritis pain of the knee. When used as directed, these supplements can provide relief in early stages of arthritis. Apart from easing pain and swelling, glucosamine or chondroitin has also been shown to slow down or stop the breakdown of cartilage in knee joints.
Capsaicin, which is a natural extract from chili peppers, is also commonly used to provide pain relief. It has been shown to limit transmission of pain signals to the brain. One study in 1991 showed 80% of patients in the trial experienced a significant reduction in knee pain after just 2 weeks .
Reishi, an extract from a type of mushroom, has been widely regarded in chinese medicine for thousands of years. And whilst more scientific research is needed, initial studies have shown significant positive benefits with rheumatoid athritis.
Both capsaicin and reishi can be found in non-prescription supplements. (You can read this Provailen review for one such supplement).
It normally takes about two months for the supplements to take effect. Therefore it’s worth sticking with it for at least two months of use. However if the supplements fail to provide any relief after six months, then there appears to be little benefit to continued use and it’s time to try something else.
Arthritis treatment with viscosupplementation basically means injecting hyaluronic acid directly to the joint. This improves the quality of joint fluid by supplementing natural substances in the fluid that give it viscosity. Several injections may be needed to provide pain relief.
Opioid and Narcotic Pain Relievers
These are strong painkillers that are normally prescribed for patients who fail to respond or are intolerant to other medications.
Experts recommend the strongest opioid pain medications only for treatment of severe pain, and in some special circumstances.
In severe arthritis cases that are unresponsive to other types of treatment, surgery may be recommended. Options include joint replacement in which a severely damaged joint cartilage is replaced with metal or plastic prosthesis.
Partial knee replacement (unicompartmental knee replacement) is normally performed on patients whose condition is restricted to one area in the knee joint. This technique can effectively improve joint function and range of motion.
Another type of surgery, osteotomy, is usually recommended for young and active athletes suffering from knee or hip osteoarthritis. This procedure involves cutting the shin bone (tibia) or femur (thigh bone) to improve alignment of the joints in the knee.
If joint replacement is unsuccessful, the surgeon may perform joint fusion. In this procedure, bones in the joints are secured together with screws, plates or pins. Eventually, the bones fuse to form a single bone. In cases of significant cartilage loss because of arthritis, cartilage may be replaced through a grafting procedure.
Therapies such as acupuncture are popular for treatment of arthritis. Others include the use of magnetic pulse to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that stimulates different parts of the body using tiny sharp pins at specific points.
The technique is believed to ease the pain of arthritis. In a recent study that involved 352 patients with arthritis of the knee, results showed a statistically significant improvement in the intensity of pain within about two weeks after a course of acupuncture treatment.
 Osteoarthritis Research Society International (ORSI) Link
 Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin Link
 Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide peptide in activated rheumatoid synovial fibroblast Link