As you age, the likelihood of your knee joints causing pain and discomfort will only increase. Often, this is a result of osteoarthritis — the natural wear and tear of the cartilage between your knees causes it to wear away, decreasing the protective space between your bones. However, many other factors can lead to the chronic pain and stiffness that prompts knee surgery, including overuse, an injury, or a poor diet.
Luckily, many natural remedies exist to increase your mobility, reduce pain and swelling, and build your knee strength. In many cases patients who opt for natural solutions can avoid knee surgery entirely or significantly delay it.
Here are some natural treatments you can try for your knee pain at the Center for Holistic Medicine:
Cold lasers are non-thermal lasers that are powerful enough to affect the structures of the cells beneath your skin. FDA-approved, cold laser therapy is a non-invasive knee treatment option that involves sending photons of light to tissue cells up to five centimeters below the surface of your skin.
The photons from cold lasers cause a chemical reaction in the injured cells of your knee that helps restore their mitochondrial function. This reduces your knee pain and inflammation in just a few minutes, and the procedure is painless!
Dr. Richard Bisceglie, a naprapathic practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine, has seen great results with cold laser therapy. “Laser therapies will reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and increase lymphatic drainage,” he says. Bisceglie says cold lasers can also cause an increase in the growth of new soft tissue cells in muscles and ligaments, as well as the growth of new bone and joint cells.
2. Chiropractic Adjustments
You might think that chiropractic adjustments are only good for helping your back, but in fact, adjustments to your ankle and hip joints can do wonders to relieve knee pain as well. That’s overuse, poor posture, and injuries can cause your ankle and hip joints to get out of alignment, which can cause pain in your knees.
“Any dysfunction in the hip or the foot can transpose right into the knee,” says Dr. Mitchell Katz, a chiropractor at the Center for Holistic Medicine. “For knee pain, there is a protocol where we use the decompression table to apply gentle traction to the knee joint to separate the bones a bit, creating more space and allowing nutrients to be absorbed to nourish the disk and the cartilage,” he adds.
However, another cause of your knee pain may in fact be your feet. “Before we do anything, I look at the structure of the foot for flat-footedness, to make orthotics if appropriate,” Dr. Katz says. “If the foot is flat, it can cause some bones to rotate as a result. If the structure is not right, everything else you look at is an illusion before you fit the foot with some arch support.”
3. Anti-Inflammation Diet
Eating foods that reduce your inflammation is an effective and affordable treatment option for knee pain as well. “Awareness of inflammatory foods is important for people with arthritis,” says Patricia DeAngelis, a functional medicine practitioner at the Center for Holistic Medicine.
A diet of fresh vegetables high in foods containing omega 3 fats will provide the best benefits. “Eat organic as much as possible,” DeAngelis notes. Patients can check out the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen guides when shopping for produce.
Foods to incorporate into your diet if you are experiencing knee pain include:
- Salmon, tuna, cod, and sardines
- Leafy green vegetables
- Olives and extra virgin olive oil
- Walnuts and almonds
- Spices: cayenne, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and oregano
In addition to changes in your diet, consider adding these daily supplements to ease knee pain.
- Glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate: Dr. Bisceglie advises taking this supplement “to provide more ‘food’ for the joint” if you have osteoarthritis, along with a specialized bone formula.
- Omega 3 & turmeric: “We do an omega 3 or fish oil supplement along with a turmeric supplement for inflammation,” Dr. Bisceglie says. Turmeric is a popular spice that contains curcumin as an active ingredient, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oils and walnuts, also have a proven track record of reducing inflammation.
- Magnesium: When your joints are injured, your body will induce muscle spasms to contract the muscles around the joint. While this stabilizes the joint, it also blocks blood flow to your knee joints. Magnesium supplements naturally relax your muscles to get the blood flowing again. Dr. Bisceglie recommends patients “use supplements related to the modeling of the bone and soft tissue” in addition to supplements for inflammation to target both the joints and bone simultaneously.
Before you take any supplements, however, it’s best to check with your doctor for specific recommendations.
5. Gentle Exercise
Although you might think exercise will exacerbate your knee pain, in fact, Dr. Bisceglie says doing the right kind of exercise can actually strengthen the muscles that support your knee and lessen your pain.
“Movement has an amazing healing property because it keeps the joint fluid flowing and the joints a little more free, reducing the pain,” he says.
Dr. Bisceglie recommends using ellipticals and bicycling. “Bracing while doing those exercises helps additionally support your knee so you can do the exercises with less pain,” he says.
Naprapathy is a natural method of relieving compression on your joints. When your leg muscles and soft tissues become tight from overuse, that resulting tension puts an additional strain on your knee joints and can cause your bones to rub together. Naprapathy is a technique that involves manually manipulating the soft tissue around your joints to relieve tension, bring blood flow back to the joint, and improve your mobility.
Dr. Bisceglie, who practices naprapathy at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says he also gives patients suggestions for stretches and exercises they can do at home to help relieve pain, too.
Acupuncture has been practiced for over 5,000 years, and the ancient Chinese technique can provide serious relief for patients with osteoarthritis and knee joint pain. Kenji Aoki, a licensed acupuncturist at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says by opening up your meridians and balancing your energy at specific acupuncture points, acupuncturists can alleviate much of the pain associated with common knee joint issues.
In fact, multiple studies in the last ten years have found that acupuncture was more effective than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen) for treating chronic knee pain and inflammation.
A combination of several holistic treatments can alleviate your knee pain and treat inflammation and tension without the need for surgery. Schedule an appointment with our functional medicine practitioner, Patricia DeAngelis, who can assess your symptoms and refer you to our specialists who can help you heal naturally.