Naturally Relieve Knee and Joint Pain With These Science-Backed Tips

According to a 2010 study, between 70% to 80% of older adults experience joint pain. This pain could result from a strain, arthritis, poor posture, or something else entirely. And while medications are the best treatment for joint pain, sometimes, people need something extra.

Research has determined many other treatments for joint pain. From heat therapy to yoga to drinking more water, you can make many simple changes to alleviate aches. If you want to relieve joint pain naturally, check out these science-backed techniques.

Exercise More

Although exercising with joint pain may seem contradictory, it can help. By sitting still, joints stiffen and lose flexibility. Aerobic exercises (such as walking and jogging) and strength exercises can lower pain significantly, says research in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine.

A man lifts weights at the gym.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP via Getty Images

Your workouts don’t have to be long, either. The Arthritis Foundation lists two-minute exercises to strengthen peoples’ knees, back, and hips. A ten-minute walk can help, as well. Exercise also relieves stiffness and inflammation in the joints, which can provide relief for hours afterward.

The RICE Method

If you have a possible injury, you can assuage the pain through the RICE method. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. First, you should rest your joint by not exercising it and not putting weight on it.

A woman presses an ice pack to her knee.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Next, ice it. Press ice onto the joint for 10-20 minutes, give it a break, and then do it again three times, says the University of Michigan. Wrap the joint lightly and elevate it to decrease swelling. If your injury is major, seek out medical attention.

Try Heat Therapy

If your joints stiffen or spasm, you may want to try heat therapy. While cold compression reduces swelling, heat therapy can ease joint movement, according to Arthritis Health. During a 2010 study, researchers found that applying heat improves pain, stiffness, and function in joints.

A woman presses warm towels on another woman's face.
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To use heat therapy, apply a heating pad. Or, you can microwave a damp towel for 20-60 seconds, depending on the towel’s thickness. A warm bath or shower also helps, says Harvard Health Publishing. Don’t jump from cold therapy to heat therapy; it could shock your joints.

Change Your Sleeping Position

If you wake up with knee pain, you may want to alter your sleeping position. When people sleep on their back or side, they don’t give their knees enough support. If you sleep on your side, tuck a pillow in between your knees. While on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees. Doing so will take some pressure off of your joints.

A diagram shows how to sleep with your pillow to relieve joint pain.

These sleeping positions may also help your back since a pillow can lift pressure off of your legs and lower back. To save your back, try not to sleep on your stomach.

Practice Yoga

Yoga can improve chronic joint pain, according to studies. In 2012, research in the International Journal of Yoga found that yoga relieves pain and morning stiffness in the knees. Patients with arthritis especially benefit from yoga.

A woman follows a yoga tutorial on the TV.
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Clive Mason/Getty Images

According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, gentle yoga can modify back pain, joint pain, and stiffness after surgery. Yoga can also relieve stress, which assuages tension in the muscles. A short, gentle yoga session is all you need to feel a difference.

Hydrate More

According to the Nutrition Information Center, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Hydration does more than cool you down; it also improves digestion, heart health, and, yes, joint pain. Joint cartilage is made from water, and dehydration can cause aching, says Orthopedic Specialists.

A woman drinks from a water bottle.
DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images
DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images

During a 2013 study, researchers examined cartilage through an ultrasound. They found that dehydration degrades cartilage. When this happens, your joints have less cushioning and feel worse. To feel less pain, try to drink plenty of water per day.

Lose Weight (Even One Pound)

Some people who suffer from chronic joint pain have worse symptoms if they’re overweight or obese. A bit of weight loss can go a long way for joint health. According to research in Arthritis & Rheumatism, losing one pound takes four pounds of pressure off of the knees.

A woman stands on a scale.

Several studies demonstrate that weight loss can soothe joint pain. During one study in 2018, researchers found that the more weight people lose, the less knee pain they feel. You don’t need to drop 20 pounds to start feeling the effects– even two pounds can make a noticeable difference.

Get New Shoes

Your shoes can either remove or encourage your joint pain. In 2018, a study in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy examined the impact of shoes on lower extremity osteoarthritis. Specifically, shock-absorbing soles reduced knee, ankle, and lower back pain.

A close-up shows running shoes of a woman jogging in the rain.
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Frank Rumpenhorst/picture alliance via Getty Images

The researchers believed that high heels and hard soles only aggravate joint pain. Flat shoes, such as sandals, can also irritate knee pain, according to Arthritis Care & Research. If you believe that your shoes are contributing to knee pain, visit an orthopedic to discuss different options.

Rub In Some Herbal Creams

According to some studies, certain herbal creams can alleviate joint pain. In the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, scientists stated that herbal ointments improved joint pain in osteoporosis patients. Stiffness in the hands and knees also relaxed from the ointment.

A woman rubs cream on her wrist.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to the International Journal of Complementary Medicine, healing herbs include ginger, cayenne, rue, cinnamon, peppermint, and turmeric. Be careful putting these herbs on your skin, though. Some can burn you (like cayenne), and others can dye your skin (like turmeric). Talk to your doctor before using herbal creams.

Apply Epsom Salts

Epsom salt, also called magnesium sulfate, is a chemical compound added to baths and shower scrubs. It can smooth your skin and improve joint pain. In 2019, research in The Pharma Innovation Journal concluded that combining Epsom salt with hot water can soothe joint pain.

A square bowl of Epsom salts has a wooden spoon inside of it.
Champagne Suki/Flickr
Champagne Suki/Flickr

You can also use Epsom salt as a warm compress. During a 2017 study, women felt less pain when they applied warm Epsom salt to their knees. If you use it as a topical, it decreases inflammation, swelling, and stress.

Eat And Massage With Olive Oil

Olive oil can help joint pain, either through ingesting or massaging. The oil’s polyphenols are an anti-inflammatory. In March 2020, researchers massaged the joints of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Massaging with olive oil reduced inflammation more than without it.

A woman pours olive oil onto bread.
Matthew Mirabelli,Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/GettyImages
Matthew Mirabelli,Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/GettyImages

Eating with olive oil may help you feel better, too. According to the scientific journal Nature, 1.75 ounces of olive oil (about three and a half tablespoons) act the same way as 10% of an ibuprofen dose. It’s not much, but it may alleviate chronic pain a little bit.

Eat More Fiber

Oddly enough, some research links a high-fiber diet to reduced joint pain. Fiber lowers inflammation and manages body weight, both of which may contribute to aching. A study in Arthritis Care & Research noted that eating fiber leads to less knee pain over time.

Two young women eat bagels with cream cheese for breakfast.
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Stephan Gladieu/Getty Images

To eat enough fiber, you only need to follow the American Dietary Guidelines, which recommend 25 grams per day. Fiber can also be preventative. In 2017, researchers suggested that fiber can lower one’s risk of osteoporosis. And it keeps your gut healthy, too.

Attempt Tai Chi

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that combines deep breathing, flowing movements, and meditation. It not only relaxes people, but it also soothes the joints. In 2016, Boston researchers examined practitioners of tai chi. Participants experienced less joint pain and a better mood overall.

A class practices tai chi.
Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images
Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images

In the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, scientists suggested that tai chi can alleviate knee pain in osteoarthritis patients. Because it requires people to move slowly and hold poses, tai chi also strengthens joints. Give it a try if you feel pain or stiffness.

Get A Massage

Although many people can’t afford a weekly massage, an occasional one may benefit joint pain. Research in the Journal of General Internal Medicine says that massages can relieve pain in arthritis patients. They also improve joint mobility.

A woman receives a hand and wrist massage.
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People with knee pain may reap the benefits of massages. During a 2013 study, osteoarthritis patients had less pain and stiffness after receiving a knee massage. However, mobility was not improved with a massage. If you don’t want to pay for one, self-massages can also assuage pain if you do them correctly.

Consume More Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Researchers have discovered that omega-3 fatty acids can relieve joint pain. In 2016, a study in The Global Journal of Health Science analyzed patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Taking omega-3 supplements reduced joint pain without any weight changes.

Fish oil supplements appear against a yellow background.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

According to UPMC Health Beat, omega-3 fatty acids soothe joint inflammation. They also promote healthy cell growth, which may aid healing joints after an injury. You can get omega-3s naturally through fatty fish, seeds, soybeans, and nuts. Before you buy supplements, talk to your doctor to make sure you’re ingesting the correct amount for your body.

Add Turmeric To Your Meals

In 2019, a new study suggested that turmeric could relieve knee arthritis. Specifically, the main ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory properties that may help. During a 2016 study, patients who took curcumin experienced a 50% improvement in joint pain.

Turmeric coconut rice sits in a bowl next to turmeric root.
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But as Harvard Health Publishing notes, this is only one study. Turmeric requires more research to provide proven benefits for joint pain. Still, it’s a harmless change to add turmeric to your diet. Before you buy curcumin supplements, talk to a doctor to ensure that it won’t conflict with medications.

Exercise In Water

Because water gives you buoyancy, it can help people move their joints without excess weight and pressure. According to UW Medicine, patients with arthritis can practice aquatic exercises for better strength and flexibility. Warm water also adds some anti-inflammatory heat therapy.

A woman runs and lifts weights underwater.
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Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In 2015, a scientific review determined that aquatic exercises can aid older adults with joint pain. The water extended peoples’ coordination and range of motion while offering all of the benefits of exercise. If land-based exercises place too much strain on your joints, try water workouts.

Meditate More

In recent years, researchers have observed the correlation between meditation and joint pain. One study in Alternative and Complementary Therapies analyzed osteoarthritis patients with knee pain. It found that meditation effectively reduced their pain and improved their mood.

A woman meditates on a beach at sunset.
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Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

According to medical expert Jane Ehrman, meditation produces hormones that can soothe aches. When your mind becomes calm, it releases endorphins, which is a natural pain reliever. Essentially, it tricks your brain into focusing less on the pain and more on a calm, gratitude-based state of mind.

Smell Some Aromatherapy

Although aromatherapy may not sound like it could help, it can. “Aromatherapy is effective because it works directly on the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center,” explains Dr. Mehmet Oz. Scents activate receptors that release hormones to alleviate pain.

A woman pours essential oil onto a cotton swab.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some studies have noticed benefits from essential oil aromatherapy. In Complementary Therapies in Medicine, people massaged with a ginger and orange cream experienced less knee pain. Research from 2016 suggests that lavender and almond massage oil relieves knee pain. However, remember that incorrectly-diluted oils may damage your skin.

Adjust Your Posture

If you suffer from back, shoulder, spine, or neck pain, you may need to adjust your posture. A study in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders suggested that changed posture can alleviate joint pain over time.

A chiropractor gives a presentation about posture.
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Chiropractor Andrew Bang recommends some techniques to correct your posture. First, change your desk set up so that you don’t have to look down at your computer. “Don’t jut your butt backward or lean too far forward,” Dr. Bang explains. If you move around more, you’ll have an easier time maintaining the correct posture.