Knee pain: how to manage osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It can affect any joint but often causes pain and stiffness in your knees, sometimes making it hard to move them. It’s caused by the protective cartilage at the end of your bones breaking down. This causes pain, swelling and reduced mobility.

Although osteoarthritis is a chronic (long-term) condition, it doesn’t always get worse over time. Medical treatments can reduce pain and discomfort and there are also ways you can manage the condition yourself.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess weight can have a big effect on your knees, especially if you have osteoarthritis. Losing extra weight will reduce the pressure on your knees, which will reduce your knee pain.

Exercise regularly

All joints need exercise to keep them healthy. No matter your fitness level, simple exercises to strengthen your knees can make a big difference. Swimming is particularly good as it reduces the pressure on your knees while strengthening the muscles around them.

However, don’t overdo it. Exercising too much and pushing your knees too hard can do more harm than good and worsen your symptoms.

Wear supportive shoes

Ill-fitting or high-heeled shoes can increase the pressure on your knees. Make sure you instead wear low-heeled shoes with soft, shock-absorbing soles.

Use a hot or cold compress

If you experience pain and swelling in your knees, hot and cold compresses can help. Cold packs are ideal to reduce swelling and are a good option after exercising. However, you should avoid using them for longer than 20 minutes at a time. You can also use a hot compress or rest your knee in a warm bath when it’s feeling stiff — this will help relax your knee muscles.

Use knee braces or mobility aids

If you are going to be on your feet for a long time, which will put your knees under strain, you may want to use a walking stick to support yourself and reduce the pressure on your knees.

Knee braces can also help reduce knee pain by providing extra support. They are also sometimes used to help prevent knee injuries when taking part in activities that put extra strain on the knees.


You can manage your knee pain with over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. If this isn’t enough to ease your pain, speak to your GP. They may be able to prescribe stronger prescription painkillers.

Steroid injections

If over-the-counter painkillers and pain management techniques aren’t effective, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection. The injection will usually be given directly into your knee — you may be given local anaesthetic first.

Steroids work quickly to alleviate pain and can work for weeks or months at a time. However, it is usually not recommended to have more than two or three steroid injections in a year.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.