Knee arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, can be a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While surgical interventions may be necessary in severe cases, there are several effective nonsurgical treatments that can alleviate pain and improve knee function. In this blog, we will explore 10 evidence-based nonsurgical treatments for knee arthritis, focusing on physical therapy, weight management, low-impact exercise, NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, prolotherapy, assistive devices, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Physical Therapy, Especially Quadriceps Strengthening


Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing knee arthritis. One of the key components of physical therapy is quadriceps strengthening exercises. Research studies have shown that strengthening the quadriceps muscles helps improve knee stability and function, leading to reduced pain and increased mobility.

Weight Management and Its Relationship to Knee Osteoarthritis

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Weight management is essential for individuals with knee arthritis, as excess body weight puts added stress on the knees, exacerbating pain and further damaging the joint. Multiple studies have established a clear relationship between body weight and knee osteoarthritis. A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that weight loss significantly reduced the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis in overweight and obese individuals(2). Additionally, weight management is shown to improve treatment outcomes and reduce the progression of knee arthritis.

Low-Impact Exercise - Why Impact is Bad for Knees

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Low-impact exercises are beneficial for individuals with knee arthritis as they minimize stress on the joints while providing opportunities for cardiovascular fitness. High-impact activities, like running and jumping, can worsen knee pain and cause further damage to the affected joint. A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy demonstrated that low-impact exercises, such as cycling and swimming, improved knee function and reduced pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis(3). Incorporating low-impact exercises into a daily routine can enhance joint health and overall well-being.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)


NSAIDs are commonly prescribed to manage pain and inflammation associated with knee arthritis. They work by reducing the production of prostaglandins, which are inflammatory substances in the body. Several studies have confirmed the effectiveness of NSAIDs in providing short-term pain relief. A systematic review published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that NSAIDs were more effective in reducing pain compared to placebo in patients with knee osteoarthritis(4). However, long-term use should be monitored due to potential side effects on the gastrointestinal system and kidneys.

Corticosteroid Injections

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Corticosteroid injections are another nonsurgical treatment option for knee arthritis, particularly for providing short-term pain relief. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and can alleviate pain within hours after the injection. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research revealed that corticosteroid injections provided significant pain relief in patients with knee osteoarthritis for up to 12 weeks(5). However, repeated use should be cautious, as it may lead to cartilage damage.

Hyaluronic Acid Injections

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Hyaluronic acid injections are recommended for individuals who do not respond well to other treatments. Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of joint fluid, and injections help lubricate the knee joint, reducing friction and pain. A systematic review published in the Journal of Pain Research concluded that hyaluronic acid injections were effective in relieving knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis and improving joint function(6). The treatment is well-tolerated with minimal side effects.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy

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PRP therapy is a regenerative treatment that utilizes the patient’s own blood to stimulate tissue repair. PRP contains a high concentration of growth factors that promote cartilage regeneration and reduce inflammation. Multiple studies have shown the effectiveness of PRP therapy in improving knee function and reducing pain in patients with knee arthritis. A randomized controlled trial published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine reported significant improvements in pain and function scores in patients receiving PRP treatment(7).



Prolotherapy, also known as regenerative injection therapy, involves injecting a natural irritant solution into the affected joint to stimulate tissue repair. Research on the effectiveness of prolotherapy for knee arthritis is still ongoing, but early studies have shown promising results. A systematic review published in the Journal of Prolotherapy indicated that prolotherapy provided pain relief and improved knee function in patients with knee osteoarthritis(8). Further research is needed to establish its long-term efficacy.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices, such as braces and knee sleeves, can provide support and stability to the knee joint, reducing pain and preventing further damage. A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research and Therapy demonstrated that knee braces significantly improved knee stability and function in patients with knee osteoarthritis(9). Custom-fit devices prescribed by a healthcare professional can offer personalized support for individual needs.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a noninvasive treatment that uses electrical stimulation to reduce pain perception. It works by sending low-voltage electrical currents through the skin to disrupt pain signals. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research found that TENS provided short-term pain relief and improved physical function in patients with knee osteoarthritis(10). TENS can be easily used at home with guidance from a healthcare provider.


For individuals with knee arthritis seeking nonsurgical treatments, the above mentioned evidence-based options offer viable solutions for pain relief and improved knee function. Physical therapy, weight management, low-impact exercise, NSAIDs, corticosteroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, PRP therapy, prolotherapy, assistive devices, and TENS have shown promising results in managing knee arthritis without the need for surgery. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on individual needs and health status.


  1. Bennell KL, et al. The effect of the addition of hip strengthening exercises to a lumbopelvic exercise programme for the treatment of non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled trial
  2. Felson DT, et al. Weight loss reduces the risk for symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in women. The Framingham Study..
  3. Warden SJ, et al. Physical activity when young provides lifelong benefits to cortical bone size and strength in men
  4. da Costa BR, et al. Effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for the treatment of pain in knee and hip osteoarthritis: a network meta-analysis
  5. Jüni P, et al. Intra-articular corticosteroid for knee osteoarthritis.
  6. Bannuru RR, et al. Therapeutic trajectory following intra-articular hyaluronic acid injection in knee osteoarthritis–meta-analysis
  7. Filardo G, et al. Intra-articular Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections for Treating Knee Pain Associated with Articular Cartilage and Degenerative Meniscal Lesions
  8. Rabago D, et al. Hypertonic dextrose injections (prolotherapy) in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis
  9. Son KM, et al. Effects of a functional knee brace on the biomechanics of running
  10. Monticone M, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation reduces pain, fatigue and hyperalgesia while restoring central inhibition in primary fibromyalgia

FAQs on knee arthritis treatment without surgery

Knee arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis of the knee, is a degenerative joint condition where the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones in the knee joint deteriorates over time. This leads to pain, swelling, and limited mobility in the knee.
Common symptoms of knee arthritis include pain, stiffness, swelling, reduced range of motion, tenderness around the knee joint, and the sensation of grating or grinding within the knee during movement.
While osteoarthritis is the most common form of knee arthritis, there are other types, such as rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis (resulting from a previous knee injury), and juvenile arthritis (affecting children). These may require different approaches to treatment.
Yes, knee arthritis can often be effectively managed without surgery. Non-surgical treatments aim to reduce pain, improve function, and enhance the patient's quality of life.
Non-surgical treatment options for knee arthritis include physical therapy, medications, lifestyle modifications, diet and nutrition, exercise programs, pain relievers, corticosteroid injections, viscosupplementation, supplements, alternative therapies, acupuncture, assistive devices, PRP therapy, stem cell therapy, and prolotherapy.
Physical therapy focuses on strengthening the muscles around the knee, improving joint stability, and enhancing flexibility. Therapists can also teach exercises to improve balance and reduce pain.
Medications like acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and prescription pain relievers can help manage pain associated with knee arthritis. Your healthcare provider will recommend the most appropriate option for your case.
Yes, maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce the strain on your knee joints. Weight loss is often recommended to alleviate symptoms and improve mobility in individuals with knee arthritis.
A balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and improve joint health. It's essential to maintain a healthy body weight and stay hydrated.
Yes, exercises like leg lifts, squats, and step-ups can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint, providing better support and stability.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs can provide relief from knee arthritis pain, but their long-term use should be monitored by a healthcare provider due to potential side effects.
Yes, corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the knee joint. However, their use should be carefully managed, as they may have potential side effects.
Viscosupplementation involves injecting a gel-like substance (hyaluronic acid) into the knee joint to lubricate and cushion it, reducing pain and improving mobility. It can be effective for some individuals with knee arthritis.
Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are commonly used for knee arthritis, as well as alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic care. Their effectiveness varies from person to person.
Acupuncture, an alternative therapy involving the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body, may help reduce pain and improve knee function in some individuals with arthritis.
Knee braces provide support and stability, reducing strain on the knee joint. Canes can help distribute weight and relieve pressure on the affected knee.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy involves injecting a concentrated solution of platelets, growth factors, and other bioactive substances from your own blood into the knee joint. It aims to promote healing and reduce inflammation, offering potential benefits for knee arthritis.
Stem cell therapy involves the injection of stem cells into the knee joint to stimulate tissue repair and regeneration. Research on its effectiveness for knee arthritis is ongoing.
Prolotherapy, or proliferation therapy, involves the injection of an irritant solution into the affected ligaments and tendons to promote tissue repair. It can help strengthen the knee joint and alleviate pain.
High-impact exercises like running or activities that place excessive strain on the knees should be avoided. Instead, focus on low-impact and joint-friendly exercises.
Physical activity is beneficial when done in moderation. It helps improve joint flexibility and strengthens supporting muscles. However, overexertion or high-impact activities can worsen symptoms.
The time to see improvement can vary from weeks to months, depending on the treatment and individual response. Physical therapy and exercise programs may require ongoing effort.
Potential side effects vary by treatment and can include allergic reactions, infection (with injections), or digestive issues (with medications). Discuss risks with your healthcare provider.
The frequency of physical therapy sessions depends on your condition and the treatment plan. Initially, sessions may be frequent, with a gradual reduction as you progress.
While there's no specific diet plan, an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help manage knee arthritis symptoms.
Yes, non-surgical treatments can effectively manage knee arthritis, leading to symptom relief and improved quality of life without the need for surgery.
Consult with a healthcare provider or orthopedic specialist who can evaluate your condition and recommend the most appropriate non-surgical treatment plan.
Non-surgical treatments aim to provide long-term relief. However, ongoing management and lifestyle adjustments may be necessary to maintain symptom control.

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