11 Knee Pain Dos and Don’ts

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on December 09, 2022
3 min read

You can do many things to help knee pain, whether it's due to a recent injury or arthritisyou've had for years.

Follow these 11 dos and don’ts to help your knees feel their best.

Don’t rest too much. Too much rest can weaken your muscles, which can in turn increase reinjury. Find an exercise program that is safe for your knees and stick with it. If you're not sure which motions are safe or how much you can do, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist.

Do exercise. Cardio exercises strengthen the muscles of the heart, but not the joints. It is weight training mixed with keeping your muscles limber. Cardio is important for keeping your weight stable and you feeling stronger overall. For cardio, some good choices include walking, swimming, water aerobics, stationary cycling, and elliptical machines. Tai chi may also help ease stiffness and improve balance.

Don’t risk a fall. A painful or unstable knee can make a fall more likely, which can cause more knee damage. Curb your risk of falling by making sure your home is well lit, using handrails on staircases, and using a sturdy ladder or foot stool if you need to reach something from a high shelf.

Do use "RICE." Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) is good for knee pain caused by a minor injury or an arthritis flare. Give your knee some rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, wear a compressive bandage, and keep your knee elevated.

Don't overlook your weight. If you're overweight, losing weight reduces the stress on your knee. You don’t even need to get to your "ideal" weight. Smaller changes still make a difference.

Don't be shy about using a walking aid. A crutch or cane can take the stress off of your knee. Knee splints and braces can also help you stay stable.

Do consider acupuncture. This form of traditional Chinese medicine, which involves inserting fine needles at certain points on the body, is widely used to relieve many types of pain and may help knee pain.

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.

Do play with temperature. 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.

Don’t jar your joint(s). High-impact exercises can further injure painful knees. Avoid jarring exercises such as running, jumping, and kickboxing. Also avoid doing exercises such as lunges and deep squats that put a lot of stress on your knees. These can worsen pain and, if not done correctly, cause injury.

Do get expert advice. If your knee pain is new, get a doctor to check it out. It's best to know what you're dealing with ASAP so you can prevent any more damage.

Show Sources


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Common Knee Injuries.”

Hochberg, M. Arthritis Care and Research, April 2012.

ArthritisToday.org: “Ways to Ease Knee Pain and Get Around.”

ArthtitisToday.org: “25 Treatments for Arthritis Hip and Knee Pain.”

University of Missouri Health Care: “Use of Heat and Cold for Pain Relief.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Frequently Asked Questions: What are some of the pharmacological treatments for osteoarthritis pain?”

ArthritisToday.org: “Injections and Procedures for Knee Pain.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Viscosupplementation.”

The Kaiser Permanente Medical Group: “Knee Meniscus Cartilage Injuries.” University of Michigan Health System: “Obesity and Anterior Knee Pain.”  OTCSafety.org: “Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers.”

Advanced Physical Medicine: “4 Exercise Tips for Bad Knees.”

Harvard Health Beat: “The secret to joint pain relief - exercise.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Tai Chi: A Program for Better Living.”

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