Research Evaluates Best Treatment For Knee Pain

Of the many medications designed to relieve the painful symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, which are most effective? When researchers compared 10 common options for effective pain relief, they found a clear winner.


The pain and stiffness of arthritic knees can make it challenging to get through the day. If you are 45 years old or older, there’s up to a 40 percent chance that you are experiencing the stiffness, inflammation, and limited motion that comes with knee osteoarthritis. After age 65, this knee condition becomes even more prevalent.

Presently, there is no cure for knee osteoarthritis and there are no proven prevention measures. However, a number of medical treatments are available to relieve knee pain. With many treatments to choose from, how do you know which option is best for you?

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center wanted to know which medications were most effective to relieve the pain of this knee condition. They evaluated 10 common options to see which options were most effective to ease pain. They studied the most commonly used over-the-counter medications, including ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen, as well as injections. The results? Among these treatments, there is a clear winner, and a clear loser.

  • The clear winner: injections. Cortico-steroid and hyaluronic acid injections deliver medicine directly into the joint. Researchers found that this treatment provided the most pain relief of any option they studied.
  • The clear loser: acetaminophen. Research results showed that acetaminophen was the least effective option. In fact, acetaminophen was the only treatment that did not show clinically significant improvement of pain.

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and work with you to determine the treatment that is best for your individual condition. In addition to medical treatment, there are lifestyle steps you can take to control the pain of knee osteoarthritis—and to improve the effectiveness of any medications you may be taking. Patients who follow good habits (as nonsmokers and moderate drinkers), and maintain healthy weight with regular exercise are more likely to experience the best results from doctor-supervised medication.

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