When sore joints start complaining, it can be tempting to grab for whatever will give the quickest relief and let you get back to your favorite activities. Sometimes that’s not the best strategy. Pain-relieving medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may have unanticipated consequences.

Q. I am an avid tennis player but my knee is giving me trouble, probably because of arthritis. I stopped playing for a week, but I am desperate to get back on the courts.

My tennis partners suggested cortisone shots, but when I asked my doctor about these shots he was not enthusiastic. He wants me to give it a rest for a few more weeks. I am tempted to find another doctor who will cooperate. Your thoughts?

A. Pay attention to your doctor. A Danish study of 100 people found no benefit to a cortisone shot in the painful knee prior to exercise (JAMA Internal Medicine, June, 2015).

For a sprain or strain, rest can be helpful. For arthritis, it is important to keep moving, but keep it gentle so it doesn’t hurt too much. You might need to switch from singles to doubles, or modify your style of play so your knee doesn’t take quite as much of a beating.

You might also be interested in a home remedy that can help alleviate pain.

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  1. Joseph
    Tiffin, OH

    Although rest certainly does help osteoarthritis, it does not take away the pain for a long period of time and will come back with serious exercise such as tennis. Having had excruciating pain in my left knee that made it even difficult to walk stairs I was interested in an ad that appeared in the newspaper about Hyalgan injections. I asked my Primary care physician and he told me that as long as there is an M.D. involved in evaluation and supervision I should go for the free consultation. After visiting the clinic, having the x-ray, evaluation by the chiropractor, I had the first of 5 strategically located injections, each a week apart. By the 3rd week the pain had almost disappeared, down to a 3 out of 10. After the 5th injection we went for a 10 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land where we walked up and down lots of steps and mountains. I had no paid at all and am 1 year and 8 months from that last injection. Although my knee is week from injury and no ACL, I can walk with ease.

  2. HN

    Knee pain can have many causes. The one I see the most in my athletic and active clients (that also gets no relief from cortisone shots in the knee) comes from trigger points in the iliotibial (I.T.) band. That band is made up of tendon tissue that runs most of the length of the outside of the thigh and goes under the knee cap to attach to the shin bone. Any time you have knee pain, try pressing along that band and you’ll probably find some very tender points, which can be released with pressure held on them and deep breathing. If that is the root cause of your pain, once you release them all, the knee pain “miraculously” goes away. Then it’s important to stretch that band prior to every repetitive leg activity (e.g, tennis, running, power walking, treadmill).

  3. marie

    Chiropractic, acupuncture, cold packs, massage – why is the answer always taking a pill or an injection?

  4. NEIL

    Ask your MD about hyaluronic acid injections. They work for me while cortisone injections don’t help at all.

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