Non-surgical Options for Knee Pain

Contact Information

(888) 978-4611

UW Health Orthopedics and Rehabilitation in Madison, Wisconsin provides treatment for osteoarthritis, including pain stemming from osteoarthritis of the knee.


About Knee Arthritis


Knee arthritis affects 10 to 20 percent of adults older than 60. While there are many treatments available to help manage the pain and discomfort associated with knee osteoarthritis, the best management techniques usually include a combination of non-pharmacological (non-medication) and pharmacological methods.


Non-Medication-Based Treatment Methods

  • Exercise: When patients experience pain or discomfort, it might be surprising that exercise is one of the best recommendations for knee osteoarthritis. Strengthening and aerobic exercise are actually associated with pain relief and improved knee function.
  • Weight loss: For patients who are overweight, losing weight and maintaining a healthy body weight can help manage and even improve symptoms.
  • Walking aids: Walking aids, such as canes or crutches, have been shown to be helpful for patients. However, it is important that individuals receive proper instruction on how to use them. For people with osteoarthritis in both knees, a frame walker may be preferable.
  • Knee bracing: Some people may benefit from knee bracing, particularly in cases where the knees are becoming deformed as a result of the osteoarthritis.
  • Footwear and orthotics: Insoles can reduce pain and improve walking for certain patients.
  • Ice and heat: While effective only for the short term, heat and ice therapy can help provide some relief from symptoms.

Medication-Based Therapies


When non-medication-based treatments aren’t enough, physicians may prescribe some pain relievers, including acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, topical medications, cortisone shots and hyaluronic acid injections. Glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulphate, which are commonly advertised as promoting joint health, may be used, but if no benefit is seen after six months, it's usually best to discontinue use.


Joint Replacement Surgery


When the combination of medicine- and non-medicine-based treatments doesn't provide enough relief or improve knee function, joint replacement surgery may be an option. Depending on the severity of the arthritis, either a total knee or partial-knee replacement may be recommended. If you experience knee pain, UW Health's orthopedics, sports medicine and rehabilitation experts can help you get back to the activities you enjoy.