arthroscopic knee surgery

Have you ever had sore knees? It makes it hard to climb stairs. Even walking can be a challenge when your knees hurt. Most people take NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) or meloxicam (Mobic). Such medications come with a lot of side effects. You can learn more about the dark side of NSAIDs at this link.  Others, like this doctor, have gone way beyond NSAIDs with limited success.

Other Treatments for Sore Knees:

Q. I am a physician, but traditional medicine has let me down. Knee surgery has not helped my sore knees. Neither have stem cell injections.

I have tried oral supplements without much success. Any suggestions?

A. Have you considered a topical NSAID such as diclofenac gel for your sore knees? It should be less likely to cause systemic side effects than oral drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen.

There is a surprising amount of controversy surrounding topical NSAIDs. The FDA requires a scary warning about drugs like Voltaren Gel. Here is our take on this complex issue:

Opioids for Osteoarthritis Seem Scary! How About Topical NSAIDS Instead?

Stories from Readers:

Richard in Washington shared this story:

“I was prescribed Voltaren Gel for knee and back pain some years ago. The stuff was magic but at $50 per tube I only used it when I absolutely needed it. On a trip to Canada I discovered it was available over the counter for $17 a tube. I buy a couple of tubes every trip.”

Maggie in Alabama has a similar story:

“I was prescribed Voltaren gel for arthritis in my feet. Didn’t expect much, but got pain relief within minutes. Unfortunately, my co-pay was $42.00, which kind of pissed me off.

“I researched Voltaren, and saw it was available over the counter in Canada, so I had a friend get me several tubes at a time. I’ve been on SSD for a decade, but Voltaren has allowed me to work part-time. It works so well, for me anyway, that there’s no reason for it not to be OTC, except that pharmaceutical companies like the money.”

We do think people should consult their health care professionals before using topical NSAIDs. Some individuals are so sensitive to such drugs that even topical formulations cause them stomach upset or high blood pressure.

Other Options for Sore Knees:

Even though you have not had success with supplements, have you tried turmeric (curcumin), ashwagandha, boswellia, ginger, MSM, SAMe, tart cherry juice or pineapple (bromelain)? We recognize that as a physician you will want some scientific support for such alternative approaches. You will find it and more details in our eGuide, Alternatives for Arthritis. Look in the Health Guide section of

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  1. M

    I have been taking a combination of turmeric and curcumin for years with much success (do a Google search on products). When I run out, I notice!

  2. Carol

    The doc tried stem cell injections for knee pain that did not work. I attended a “seminar” that was actually a slick sales presentation given with a free buffet for all attendees. It reminded me of a time share pitch I saw in the 80s and that alone saved me from getting sucked in. On line research showed many non-MD practitioners making claims.

    How did stem cell treatments go wild like this? Did the FDA lose their grip? Are any stem cell offerings legit? I’d love to get your take on this phenomenon.

  3. J. David Auner
    Springfield, MO

    I would refer people to the People’s Pharmacy show on Prolotherapy. There is no industrial push for this as no company can make much money on Dextrose and water injections. Fibroblasts on skin and in joints grow well along planes of sugar as cells without blood supply get shed. Dr Knutson and the Prolotherapy people are onto something sweet.

  4. Layne

    I’m writing from British Columbia, Canada, to comment on the Voltaren question. I have a recently purchased 100 gram (3.5 oz) tube of Voltaren Emulgel (1.16%) that probably cost $20 Canadian and a 50 gram (1.75 oz) drug store bottle of diclofenac cream (10%) that cost around $30 Canadian in 2015. Perhaps it is the concentration of diclofenac that is the difference.

  5. Kat

    I’ve recently had very good outcomes using arnica gel on my knees and thumb joints 2–3 times a day. It works just as well for me as Voltaren gel. I first bought it in a health food store, but have since found a larger tube (same brand; twice as large) online for the same price. It is not sticky or gooey, I use less than the Voltaren, and it easily washes off my hands. I just rub it in until it’s dry to the touch. I saw one comment about knee injections helping, but they only work if you still have cartilage left in your knees. They will not work for bone-on-bone pain or after knee replacement.

  6. Kim F.

    I was on vacation in Toronto Canada a couple of years ago and was amazed to find extra-strength Volatan, an over the counter product for only $12. USD. What an eye-opener.

  7. Stephen
    Everett WA

    Years ago I had HYALURONIC ACID injections, and it worked wonders.

    Also I made a point of strength training with squats and deadlifts. My knees are now pain free.

  8. Barbara

    Regarding the sore knees, I had the same problem but refuse to take NSAIDS or pain pills. I have gone to a chiropractor once a month for many years and mentioned the problem. Now each time I go, I get my knees adjusted by the chiropractor! Sounds crazy but it has made a huge difference for me and helped my knees quite a bit.

  9. Jay

    What about stem cell injections ? I am very surprised at People’s Pharmacy’s silence on an explosion of full page adds offering stem cell therapy as a solution to many health problems .

  10. Leon
    Wilmington NC

    Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. They work most of the time

  11. Tallyn
    Boone, NC

    To manage mild to severe osteoarthritis in both knees, I have tried oral and topical NASIDs, turmeric, ginger, MSM, SAMe and tart cherry juice. While trying to avoid surgery because of sensitivity and reactions to metals and plastics, both used in prosthetics for knees, I also avoid overuse by keeping stairs and steep areas (going up or down) to a minimum. I discovered physical therapy exercises expressly to build support for the knees and CBD ointment to be my go-to solutions. I have had too many friends who were on cloud 9 after injections and surgeries to be let down when the solutions eventually fail. They return to more pain and much less money!

  12. Carol

    Here’s what I’ve done for my own sore knees, and these help a lot:

    1) I bought new running shoes that prevent me from pronating. Amazingly helpful!

    2) I used kinesio tape to decrease knee tendinitis that was caused by my previous running shoes whose soles had worn down, causing me to pronate.

    3) I went to a podiatrist who referred me to a physical therapy group, and I learned some achilles tendon (and other) stretches from the physical therapist.

    4) I take oral glucose-amine sulfate with MSM.

    5) I take oral bromelain/papain that is anti-inflammatory.

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