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Exerciser Needs Home Remedy to Overcome Knee Pain

Do your knees complain when you go up or down stairs? How about when you go for a walk? NSAIDs have serious side effects. What else can you do for pain?

It is estimated that 30 million Americans take an NSAID-type pain reliever each day to ease their sprains, strains, arthritis and bursitis. Familiar brands include Advil, Aleve, Anaprox, Cataflam, Mobic, Motrin, Naprosyn and Voltaren. But people with high blood pressure are at special risk from such medications. This reader was caught in a terrible bind regarding how to overcome knee pain.

How Can You Overcome Knee Pain?

Q. I am an avid hiker and tennis player. When the weather is bad I go to the gym and use the elliptical trainer. If I don’t get to exercise at least three or four times a week I get depressed and irritable.

Lately I have discovered to my disappointment that going down stairs is painful. My right knee is complaining and that limits my mobility. I cannot handle ibuprofen or naproxen because my blood pressure is borderline and I don’t want to take blood pressure medicine. What remedies might be helpful?

A. Your reluctance to take an NSAID pain reliever such as ibuprofen or naproxen is understandable. Such drugs can raise blood pressure and have a negative impact on the heart.

NSAIDs and Heart Failure:

A meta-analysis published in the journal Clinical Cardiology (online, Dec. 31, 2015) analyzed data from seven studies involving 7,543,805 participants. The authors concluded that the use of conventional NSAIDs increases the risk for heart failure [HF]. They point out that the most likely reason is because such drugs can cause fluid retention and an elevation in blood pressure.

The conclusion of the study:

“Physicians must weigh the potential risks of HF and other adverse events related to NSAIDs, such as renal failure, MI, and GI bleeding, against their clinical benefit when prescribing these medications.”

NSAIDs and Heart Attacks:

In 2005 the FDA issued a public health advisory:

“NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular thrombotic events [blood clots], myocardial infarction [heart attack], and stroke, which can be fatal.”

In 2015 the FDA issued another warning about NSAIDs:

“Patients taking NSAIDs should seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, weakness in one part or side of their body, or slurred speech.”

Most people assume that such risks only occur after prolonged use of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like diclofenac, ibuprofen, meloxicam or naproxen. But the agency noted that heart attacks and strokes could occur “as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID.”

Cycling to Overcome Knee Pain:

Exercise can help keep joints moving, but activities such as skiing, tennis, running or. martial arts can be hard on the knees. People who regularly ride bicycles are doing their knees a favor, according to recent research (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, April 11, 2024).

A study of around 2600 people averaging 64 years of age answered questions about their exercise history. The scientists also took X-rays of their knees and collected information on arthritis symptoms. Those who engaged in bicycling were 21% less likely to have such symptoms or X-ray evidence of arthritis. It appears that cycling, whether outside or on a stationary bike, can help overcome knee pain and keep joints strong.

Alternatives to NSAIDs:

You might try tart cherries, which have anti-inflammatory activity. Other remedies include the herbs ginger, turmeric or stinging nettle. A combination of purple grape juice with the plant pectin Certo might ease your pain and lower your blood pressure at the same time. See the video at the top of the page for details on how to make this remedy.

Not everyone benefits from these anti-inflammatory foods or herbs, but we are always delighted to learn that some people do get substantial relief from their pain when they try a home remedy:

Knee Pain Stories from Readers:

Markus shared this experience with cherry juice and knee pain:

“I have had knee pain for the past two years. Although I went to a doctor and had X-Rays taken, no specific diagnoses was made. Nevertheless, it feels like arthritis, which I have had for the past twelve years. It seems to be triggered by a change in cold-damp weather, stress and excessive sugar and alcohol.

“I incorporate turmeric, ginger, and pineapple for the arthritis, but it does not seem to help the knees. Fortunately, I found tart cherry juice has offered me relief in the knees. Neither naproxen nor aspirin seem to help, but the tart cherry juice seems to make a noticeable difference.”

A.J. wrote:

“My husband’s boss swears by cherry juice for arthritis pain in her knee. Says it helped within a few days and when she later had to be off it for awhile, the knee pain flared up again. In our area (Minnesota), she buys it at Cub Foods, about $18 for a 32 oz. bottle, found in the organic foods section. She mixes 2 T. in a glass of water or other beverage.”

Jackie offered this regarding the spice turmeric:

“I don’t use the capsules of turmeric, but I am using it as seasoning (with black pepper which I found out helped it’s absorption) on my food, daily. I am also using the golden raisins in gin…whether it is coincidence or not I don’t know, but I’m happy to report a great improvement in knee pain, and arthritic toes.”

Gale in Chicago writes that Certo and grape juice can help knee pain:

“I have been taking turmeric capsules for almost a year; they were suggested to me by my GP. I bought the capsules online because I could not find them locally. And from reading People’s Pharmacy, I also drink Certo gel with grape juice. I no longer have tendinitis or knee pain. I’m 63 and haven’t felt this good in years. Before turmeric, Certo, grape juice I had horrible knee pain. It works, I’m a huge fan.”

Our Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis provide more details on these and other ways of managing joint pain without NSAIDs. You will also find numerous non-drug options in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

Share your own experience with NSAIDs or home remedies below and please vote on this article at the top of the page.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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  • Ungprasert P et al, "Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and risk of incident heart failure: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies." Clinical Cardiology, online, Dec. 31, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1002/clc.22502
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