7 Ways To Get Bone-On-Bone Knee Pain Relief Without Surgery

Written By on June 13, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Kris Ceniza (PT)

Bone-on-bone knee pain relief without surgery is possible. In fact, studies show this approach is under-utilized even though it can slow down the progression of the condition. (1, 2)

This can be achieved in several ways, like exercise or weight loss. Their main goal is to ease arthritis pain, protect your knee joints from further damage, and promote recovery.

Here are the topics we’ll cover. Tap on any of them to navigate to its section:

7 treatments for bone-on-bone knee joint pain

Knee osteoarthritis is a condition where the cartilage wears off, causing pain and stiffness in the long term.

To date, no treatment can heal the damage to pre-injury levels. So, remedies focus on managing pain and inflammation. They also make it easier to live with knee osteoarthritis.

Now, the best non-surgical treatments for this condition include (1, 2, 3):

1) Heat/Cold therapy

Both hot and ice therapies can provide temporary relief in osteoarthritis knee pain. However, this is what I recommend:

For hot therapy

Use this one to relax tight muscles and prepare your joint for movement. Apply it for 15 minutes, 2-3 times per day for best results.

It’s also a great tool if one of your knee arthritis symptoms is morning stiffness. See, the heat will warm up your joint tissues, reducing the tightness and making it easy for you to start your day.

For cold therapy

Ice will be best to reduce inflammation, like the one present at the end of a hard day. It also has pain-numbing properties, making it an excellent strategy to manage flare-ups.

Similar to heat – apply for 15 minutes at a time, up to 3 times per day.

With that said – this is not set in stone. People respond differently to temperatures, so take 1-2 weeks to test each therapy to find the best combination for you.

Learn more: What’s better for arthritic knees – hot or cold?

2) Home exercises

Keeping your leg muscles strong is one of the best ways to relieve arthritis pain. The effect may not be immediate, but the results are long-lasting. (2, 3)

This is because strong muscles can protect the joint from further damage. They also bring blood to the area, keeping the tissues nurtured.

All of this results in less pain while walking, climbing stairs, squatting, and doing other daily activities.

Try this: 6 strengthening exercises for healthy knees.

3) Knee braces

Knee braces can relieve pain by providing external support to the joint, but they do this in different ways.

Some designs provide uniform compression, for example. This is extremely effective at keeping swelling at bay and managing pain. They are a great tool to reduce stiffness and make your daily tasks easier.

Others have side hinges to provide more stability for torn ligaments and/or meniscus. These are common injuries associated with osteoarthritis.

Know more: Our list of the best knee braces for osteoarthritis.

4) Dietary supplements

These are mostly natural compounds that may help reduce pain in knee osteoarthritis. The most common for this condition include (2, 3):

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin – may protect cartilage from further deterioration.
  • Turmeric – has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Omega 3 – promotes blood flow and can control inflammation.
  • CBD – can help with pain management.
  • Vitamins – their deficiency may cause joint pain.

They are safe for the vast majority of people. In contrast to medications that can cause serious adverse reactions, dietary supplements only come with minimal side effects (if any).

This will help: The top 9 supplements for knee osteoarthritis.

5) Oral medications and injections

Oral anti-inflammatory medications can provide pain relief for knees without cartilage.

Some can be bought over-the-counter like acetaminophen or NSAIDs. While others need a prescription.

On the other hand, injections are minimally invasive treatments where the doctor injects a drug into the synovial fluid of your knee. Common joint injections include (2, 3):

  • Cortisone injections – can relieve pain fast but have major side effects if done frequently.
  • Hyaluronic acid – adds lubrication to the joint, which may help with pain and stiffness.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) – can theoretically heal damaged cartilage, but it’s expensive.
  • Stem cells – may regenerate damaged cartilage, but the treatment is also pricey.

Keep reading: Medicine for knee osteoarthritis.

6) Weight loss

When it comes to bone-on-bone knee pain, overweight and obesity play a huge role. In fact, they are risk factors for developing knee osteoarthritis.

Yet, for people with a BMI >25, losing 5 to 10% of their body weight may be enough to provide results. (2)

Doctors recommend doing this with a long-term approach, though. Aim for sustainable lifestyle changes instead of drastic strategies, preferably under the supervision of a dietitian.

Related: Ranking of the 15 best treatments for knee osteoarthritis.

7) Physical therapy

Physios are healthcare professionals trained to treat joint and muscle-related problems. We do this using different strategies, but for knee osteoarthritis, it usually looks like this:

  • Passive treatments like heat, electrotherapy, or manual therapy for reducing symptoms.
  • Therapeutic exercise to restore mobility and help you go back to your activities.
  • Tons of education to help you manage your condition.

With these strategies, we can also help you prevent or treat chronic pain.

This is crucial with osteoarthritis patients because the condition is irreversible. It’s also why having a good physical therapist on your side will be key to managing your osteoarthritis.

Further reading: What does physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis look like?

When to consider knee replacement surgery?

Knee surgery becomes an option when your quality of life has severely deteriorated due to osteoarthritis, and no conservative treatment eases the symptoms.

This usually happens in the severe stages of cartilage degeneration. However, incapacitating symptoms can be present in the early phases as well, requiring surgery to relieve the pain.

Yet, total knee replacement is not the only surgery available for knee osteoarthritis. There are other options that may be more appropriate for certain people.

Learn more: When is knee surgery necessary for knee osteoarthritis?

FAQs

Can you fix bone on bone in the knee without surgery?

You can ease symptoms and slow the progression. But, to date, no treatment can regenerate the worn cartilage to pre-osteoarthritis levels.

Is walking good for bone-on-bone knee arthritis pain?

Yes, in fact, it’s one of the best physical activities you can do for this condition. (2)

Conclusion: Knee bone-on-bone pain relief

All the therapies we discussed above are part of what’s called “conservative treatment.” You should try them long before ever considering managing your pain with surgery.

This is because surgical treatments are irreversible. Also, they can cause severe issues if performed on patients that don’t need them.

So, if you’re not sure what treatment plan to follow, discuss it with your healthcare team. They’ll recommend the best options according to your needs and symptoms.

Resources

  1. Lim, Wei Boon, and Oday Al-Dadah. “Conservative treatment of knee osteoarthritis: A review of the literature.” World journal of orthopedics vol. 13,3 212-229. 18 Mar. 2022, DOI: 10.5312/wjo.v13.i3.212
  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Management of Osteoarthritis of the Knee (Non-Arthroplasty) Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline (3rd Edition). https://www.aaos.org/oak3cpg Published on August 31, 2021.
  3. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis. 2nd edn. East Melbourne, Vic: RACGP, 2018. Retrieved on May 2022 from: https://www.racgp.org.au/download/Documents/Guidelines/Musculoskeletal/guideline-for-the-management-of-knee-and-hip-oa-2nd-edition.pdf

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Author
Mich Torres (PT)
Mitch is a physical therapist, personal trainer, and nutrition coach. Fascinated with the knee joint, Mitch poured that passion into writing about knee pain and how to overcome it with movement. His goal is to teach you how to apply this knowledge into your daily life, so you can keep knee pain away for good.

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