If you have arthritis in your knees, you know that the aches and stiffness can limit what you do in a day. There are various options for treating the painful symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, and researchers wanted to understand which non-surgical treatments work best.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
In a recent study, they compared different options. They found that corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid injections were the most effective options.
Best and worst knee pain treatments
Researchers at Tufts Medical Center compared 10 common treatments. Besides injections, they looked at ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen, the most commonly used over-the-counter treatment for knee osteoarthritis. They studied how well the treatments helped ease people’s pain.
Results showed acetaminophen to be the least effective option for pain. In fact, with the exception of celecoxib, all treatments were significantly better than acetaminophen.
Corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid injections were the most effective. These treatments inject medicine directly into the osteoarthritic joint and they brought the most pain relief, researchers found.
Besides medications, experts say lifestyle changes, losing weight and exercising are important aspects of controlling knee osteoarthritis pain. An approach that incorporates lifestyle changes with medications works better than any one treatment on its own.
No cure but focus on controlling symptoms
Rheumatologist Elaine Husni, MD, did not take part in the study. She treats people with knee osteoarthritis at Cleveland Clinic. “This is a heavy burden of disease,” she says. “So many people are affected by knee osteoarthritis.”
While estimates vary, knee osteoarthritis may affect as many as 40 percent of Americans age 45 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It becomes more prevalent in people over age 65 and causes stiffness, inflammation and limited motion.
At this time, there is no cure for knee osteoarthritis or a proven way to prevent it, but experts do know a lot about easing the signs and symptoms.
Future osteoarthritis research
Researchers say the study results may be able to allow for more individual patient care decisions. While Dr. Husni agrees, she says additional research is also needed.
“We need more research to pinpoint the kinds of pain people are experiencing from the knee osteoarthritis,” she says.
She thinks it’s best to look at patients individually to find out what specific types of movements they can and cannot do. Then she recommends working to increase the patient’s mobility and also decrease their pain.
“Using this approach, along with other treatments, we can help people return to their daily activities without all of these problems,” she says.
Complete findings for the study titled: “Comparative Effectiveness of Pharmacologic Interventions for Knee Osteoarthritis” can be found in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.