8 Tips to Ease Knee Pain and Avoid Surgery

What can we do to get rid of knee pain? One of these 8 tips for knee pain reliefas explained in this article just might do the trick for you and your knees! Could it be as simple as discovering what shoes are more conduscive to knee pain relief? Can knee-strengthening exercises alleviate and prevent problems? Does ozone therapy really heal knees and actually rebuild cartilage? Find out more…

  1. Knee-Strengthening Exercises
  2. How to Heal a Minor Knee Injury
  3. Weight Loss and Knee Pain
  4. Ozone Therapy
  5. Best Shoes for Knee Problems
  6. Low Impact Sports for Knees
  7. Worst Sports for Knees
  8. When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain

It’s hard to function with painful knees. I know.

A former distance runner since 7th grade, I discovered I had pretty much run off the cartilage in both knees by the time I hit my 40’s. My knees sounded like rice crispies going up and down stairs. They were constantly swollen. I still ran, anyway. (What’s wrong with us runners?!) …That is, until I tore the meniscus in both my knees within a year of each other – requiring surgery both times and resulting in my orthopedic surgeon urging me to pick a less knee-pounding way to exercise lest I become a candidate for knee replacement in my 50’s. (I converted to ice-skating.)Looking back on my life, I wonder if I could have done something differently to save my knees from pain and damage. Here are 8 things I’ve discovered that I wish I had known back then:

1. Knee-Strengthening Exercises

Knee-strengthening exercises such as straight leg raises, hamstring curls, calf raises, and others can help prevent injury, inflammation, and pain. Here’s a quick slide show on how to do these exercises (and a few more!).

What if you already have ouchy knees?

Check out the knee-strengthening exercises in A Workout You Can Crush Even If You Have Bad Knees. Some of the exercises are familiar to me because they are the same ones my physical therapist had me do to strengthen my knees after surgery. Some exercises use resistance bands…which I really like. (Men! Don’t let these exercises in Women’s Health Magazine turn you away. They’ll work for you, too!)

Doing these exercises increases flexibility and strengthens the muscles that support our knees. Stretching before exercising keeps our tendons, ligaments, and muscles lubricated to prevent damage. Sadly, more often than not, I rarely did any of this. I just laced up my shoes, did a couple of quick stretches, and ran…

Rice method

How to Heal a Minor Knee Injury

Ever heard of “RICE”? RICE = Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. First, give your knee a rest. Second, apply ice. Third, wear a compressive bandage such as an ACE wrap. Fourth, elevate your knee.

You may find these tips helpful from WebMD regarding how to apply ice – and later, heat (after 3 days of ice):
“For the first 48 to 72 hours after a knee injury, use a cold pack to ease swelling and numb the pain. A plastic bag of ice or frozen peas works well. Use it for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day. Wrap your ice pack in a towel to be kind to your skin. After that, you can heat things up with a warm bath, heating pad, or warm towel for 15 to 20 minutes, three or four times a day.”

Also, you may want to consider wearing a knee brace to stabilize your knee and protect it from further injury while it heals.

3. Weight Loss and Knee Pain

Did you know that 1 lb of extra weight = 1.5 lbs of extra pressure and stress on our knees?
And that’s just when we’re standing still! What is the force on our knees when we go up or down stairs? Or squat to tie our shoes or pick something up off the floor?

Harvard Health Publications’ article, “Why Weight Matters When It Comes to Joint Pain”, states: “Add an incline, and the pressure is even greater: the force on each knee is two to three times your body weight when you go up and down stairs, and four to five times your body weight when you squat to tie a shoelace or pick up an item you dropped.”

How I applied this to me:

If I weigh an extra 10 pounds, I am adding…

  • 15 lbs of extra pressure on my knees if I am standing.
  • 20-30 lbs of extra pressure on my knees if I am going up and down stairs .
  • 40-50 lbs of extra pressure on my knees if I squat to tie my shoes or pick up something I dropped.
Force Exerted From Weight Gain
What’s the impact of weight gain? Here’s a quick chart to show you how much additional strain you are adding to your knees.

Personally, I know this is true. The extra pounds I have lost recently has made a BIG difference in the way my knees feel. And making my knees happier has increased my motivation to keep striving to lose those final extra pounds.

4. Ozone Therapy for Knee Pain

“Injecting ozone gas into the knee reduces pain and improves functioning and quality of life in people with knee osteoarthritis” declares the American College press release, Ozone Gas Injections May Do the Trick for Knee Osteoarthritis Sufferers”.

How does ozone reduce knee pain? Ozone reduces inflammation. Inflammation causes pain. Get rid of inflammation = Get rid of pain. According to My Wellness Tutor Top 10 Benefits of Ozone Therapy, ozone reduces inflammation and also…

  • …Strengthens your immune system
  • …Kills bacteria and viruses on contact
  • …Increases the oxygen level of your cells
  • …Detoxifies your body
  • …Has been known to kill HIV
  • …Can kill cancer cells
  • …Is anti-aging
  • …Increases energy
  • …Reduces acidity

5. Best Shoes for Knee Problems

How many of us love wearing flip-flops? (Me!) They are just oh-so-convenient to slip on, are so affordable, and come in so many styles and colors from which to choose!However, I read the following statement by Markus MacGill with William Morrison, MD in Medical News Today Simple Home Remedies for Knee Pain and began to wonder about my knee health and my love for wearing flip-flops: “Shoes that are supportive are helpful. Shoes with broken arches may produce abnormal force and wear on the knee causing pain.”

Hmmm. I started to ponder… Are flip-flops with zero arch support a bad thing for my knees? Should I trade in my flip-flops for shoes that provide strong arch support?

I found this comment regarding cushioned insoles for knee health in this article, 11 Knee Pain Dos and Don’ts” by WebMD: “Don’t let your shoes make matters worse. Cushioned insoles can reduce stress on your knees. For knee osteoarthritis, doctors often recommend special insoles that you put in your shoe. To find the appropriate insole, speak with your doctor or a physical therapist.”

I researched further and, surprisingly, I discovered that for knee osteoarthritis, a very supportive shoe may not be the answer to solve knee pain. Here’s what I learned from Everyday Health The Best and Worst Shoes for Knee Osteoarthritis quoting Najia Shakoor, MD, a rheumatologist and a professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago:

“You don’t want too much arch support,” Shakoor says. “You need to pronate, and arch support prevents this.” Pronation, she explains, is the inward movement of the foot as it rolls to distribute the force of impact so as not to overtax any joints. Look for soft, flat, flexible sneakers or walking shoes designed to mimic the biomechanics of walking barefoot…

In general, Shakoor says, the main qualities to look for in a shoe if you have knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Minimalistic (think barefoot)
  • Minimal arch support
  • Flexibility
  • Softness

Consulting with a doctor could help you determine the amount of support you need – or don’t need – to either alleviate your knee pain or to prevent it altogether.

And what about heels? Shakoor says:

“All heels will increase load on the knee,” Shakoor says. “Even a wedge that’s built for comfort will increase load.” Her advice for women with osteoarthritis who won’t give up their heels? Wear them only on special occasions, but not on a daily basis. “Damage to the knee is cumulative,” she says.

If you would like more information, I found this article a quick-read and very helpful in Everyday Health How to Find Shoes That Can Ease Knee Pain by Jan Sheehan reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH.

6. Low Impact Sports on Knees

Sports or cardio exercises that are gentle on our knees include:

  • Walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical training
  • Stationary Rowing
  • Cycling on flat surfaces

And I think I discovered another sport that can be easy-on-the-knees:

  • Ice Skating!

I did my own investigation to discover if ice-skating could be classified as knee-friendly particularly because ice-skating is what I do now instead of running. Here is what I discovered:

Health Fitness Revolution says, Through gliding and synchronized movement of the legs, the joints and muscles will get a great workout and will become flexible in no time. Skating is said to be more beneficial than cycling and running. Ice skating works almost every major muscle group in the body, including joints.”

Best Health Magazine adds:
“Ice-skating is 
easy on the joints because it’s low impact, and it improves your balance and coordination. ‘You use a lot of small stabilizer muscles that don’t get a workout in day-to-day life, in particular those around your hips, knees and ankles,’ says Kristin Kunze, a certified skating coach and coordinator of the skating programs in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary. ‘Strengthening those small muscles helps you in other activities, like running, skiing and yoga.’ You’re also toning larger muscles in your legs, butt and core as you propel yourself on the ice. ‘You never see a skater with a flabby bum!’ Kunze notes.”

Toning our legs, butt, and core in addition to strengthening our knees? How awesome is that!! I was relieved to learn that ice-skating is considered low impact on my knee joints and good exercise for my leg muscles.

That said, however, I must state that I have had my share of bruised knees from falling on occasion, but the overall benefits to the strength of my knees has been worth it. Also important to note: While recreational ice-skating can be really good for strengthening our knees, ice hockey and competitive figure skating – with jumps, spins, and twists – can be a completely different story.

Consulting with your health care provider will help you determine which sports and exercises are best for you and your knee health.

7. Worst Sports for Knees

According to 5 Sports That Really Take a Toll on the Knees of Athletes by Sports Knee, the following sports are the hardest on our knees:


  • Skiing
  • Basketball
  • Tennis
  • Soccer
  • Golf


Tristate Pain Institute adds Plyometric Exercises as #2 worst sport for knees and Running as #7. They explain: “Skiing and plyometric exercises like burpees, jump squats, lunges, and more can put a lot of pressure on your joints and accelerate their deterioration. Running isn’t actually the worst for your knees, although it’s still not the best. Other sports, like basketball, singles tennis, soccer, and golf can also have some of these same repercussions if you’re not careful!”

8. When to See a Doctor for Knee Pain

Have you had minor knee pain for some time? Is it getting worse?
Did you experience a forceful impact to your knee? Is it accompanied by any of these symptoms?

  • Significant swelling
  • Tenderness and warmth around the joint
  • Significant pain
  • Redness
  • Fever

If “Yes”, then it’s probably time to make an appointment with your doctor – especially if your sleep and usual activities are being interrupted because of your pain.

When should you seek immediate attention? According to Knee Pain: When to See a Doctorby the Mayo Clinic Staff:

“Ask someone to drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if your knee pain is caused by an injury and is accompanied by:

  • A joint that appears deformed
  • A popping noise at the time your knee was injured
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Intense pain
  • Sudden swelling”

There you go! Now you know the 8 things I wish I had known and done differently to save my knees from pain and damage. Hope this information helps!

















About Lydia Nuttall 3 Articles
Lydia Wallace Nuttall loves searching for true principles, applying them in her own life, and sharing them with others. She passionately believes that anyone, anywhere, in any circumstance can live true principles and progress toward freedom from physical, mental, and spiritual obstacles & grow, progress, and achieve individual potential and joy as a result. Lydia deeply values her family and all that she has learned from motherhood and mentoring her two children as they navigate through life. She is the author of Forgotten American Stories: Celebrating America’s Constitution and enjoys the adventure of public speaking, traveling to new places, meeting new people, trying new foods, ice-skating, and doing just about everything outdoors from hiking, horses, dirt-digging in her vegetable and flower gardens, and raising five chickens affectionately named The Girls.