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Inexpensive Ways to Relieve Knee Pain

By Performance Health | November 21, 2017 Knee Pain
Inexpensive Ways to Relieve Knee Pain

Knee pain can disrupt your entire life. If you’re an active person, it makes any workout difficult to perform. And even if you don’t regularly exercise, we all walk, squat down, climb stairs and move in other ways throughout the day. Knee pain can make all of those things excruciating.

Luckily, you don't have to sit on the couch and miss out on all the things you enjoy, even if you have knee pain. In fact, not moving may make things worse. Instead, try some of these inexpensive solutions to ease your pain and get back to feeling like yourself again.

What Causes Knee Pain?

Before you relieve your knee pain, it’s important to understand it. Knee pain can be caused by a variety of factors. It could be from mechanical problems, like a direct blow to your knee, over-or-under-development of muscles in your body or changes in your lifestyle—such as suddenly increasing the amount of exercise you're doing—explains Dr. Shawn Burger, PT, DPT, CSCS.

It could also be caused by arthritis, ligament, cartilage or tendon injuries, or even overuse injuries.


Inflammatory knee pain is most often a sign of pain due to arthritis or another joint problem. There are two types of inflammatory arthritis that commonly occur in the knee: Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

    • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints and other parts of the body.
    • Osteoarthritis is the wearing out of the bone joint. “Almost everyone in their 20s and 30s has some level of arthritis,” Dr. Burger says. “And most people over 40 have a diagnosable level of arthritis in their knees.”


Some of the most common types of knee injuries involve the bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons in the knee. You may have heard about athletes who’ve suffered from these types of injuries, but they can happen to non-athletes, too! Often, knee injuries require a visit to a doctor or other healthcare professional to assess the damage.

    • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries most often result from sudden changes in direction or movement (non-contact injuries) or from direct contact or collision (contact injury). ACL injuries can range in severity from a slightly stretched ligament to a complete tear.
    • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) injuries are often the result of a contact injury and usually caused by a direct blow to the outside of the knee.
    • Meniscus Tears can happen at any age (and they can happen to anyone!). Many are the result of a sports-related injury, but they can also happen from just an awkward movement, too. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in your knee that acts as a cushion between your shinbone and thighbone. It’s like a shock absorber, so when it tears, your knee moves more awkwardly (and usually more painfully).

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries are just what they sound like: an injury caused by overdoing it! These types of injuries can affect anyone, depending on your level of activity.

    • Patellar Tendinitis is an injury to the tendon connecting your patella (kneecap) to your shinbone and is most often associated with people who participate in jumping sports or activities.
    • Iliotibial (IT) Band Friction Syndrome (runner's knee) is a common knee injury that causes pain on the outside of the knee. That pain on the outer knee is because of the inflammation caused by the IT band rubbing on the outside of the knee joint.

How Can You Prevent Knee Pain?

One of the best ways to prevent knee pain is to stay active. “We are sitting more, spending more time on technology or commuting, and we're not moving as much. We have to return to and maintain movement,” Dr. Burger says.

He recommends moving as much as your knee allows. Get up every morning and squat down. Even if you can only lower an inch today, gradually work up to squatting so low that your gluteal (butt) almost touches your heels, Burger says. Also, do exercises to strengthen your gluteal (butt) muscles. “We're seeing the greatest association between glute strength and knee pain,” Dr. Burger says. Check out a few of the exercises below to help with the strengthening process.

Greg Spatz, a physical therapist and co-founder of Resilient Performance Physical Therapy in New York City, also recommends having a movement assessment, which can be performed by a physical therapist. “They will make sure the joints throughout your body are moving as they should move, and they can give you a training program to help build mobility and strength where you need to improve it,” he says.

Staying active doesn’t have to mean doing a lot of exercises right away, though. Just moving around more throughout the day is a great start. If you often sit, get up and move around about every 20 minutes. Even a one-minute break helps. Take a walk to the water cooler at work, or even just stop by to talk to a coworker.

How Can You Alleviate Knee Pain?

If you’re already experiencing knee pain, try a few of these tactics to find relief.

Try Low-Impact Exercises

A great tool to help alleviate knee pain is the TheraBand® CLX resistance band. “We use the CLX to focus on functional exercise,” Dr. Burger says. “You can wrap the loops around the foot, knee, thighs or hips and do limitless exercises and movements tied to function.” In addition to exercises like squats and bridges, if you experience knee pain when sitting or standing up, you can use the TheraBand CLX to train that movement, he says.

Although there are many exercises you can find, Burger says it's best to choose about two to three exercises to focus on for a week or two at a time. Trying more than that could lead to burnout. He suggests doing these first three exercises for one to two weeks, before moving onto another set:

1. CLX Knee Terminal Extension

  1. Attach your resistance band securely to your TheraBand Door Anchor. (Make sure your attachment is at knee level.)
  2. Place your left leg inside the loop, making sure you keep the CLX above the back of your knee. Adjust your body position so there is adequate resistance on your leg.
  3. Start with your left knee bent, then straighten it. (The resistance of the CLX should be greater when you straighten your knee.)
  4. Hold briefly, return to the starting position and repeat.

2. CLX Hip Monster Walk

  1. Put your feet through the center loops of the CLX band, anchoring it at your thighs (just above your knees).
  2. Grasp the end loops of the CLX, using either a closed grip or placing the band between your thumb and forefinger, with hands open.
  3. Maintaining an athletic stance with knees and hips slightly bent, take three steps laterally against the band while keeping your back straight.
  4. Return to your starting position and repeat.

3. CLX Squat

  1. Place each foot into the center loops of the CLX.
  2. Grasp the end loops of the CLX, using either a closed grip or placing the band between your thumb and forefinger, with hands open.
  3. Fold and raise arms to shoulder height and place feet hip-width apart.
  4. Keep your elbows bent with hands at shoulders, and slowly squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  5. Without leaning forward, slowly return to a standing position, maintaining a neutral back and neck alignment.
  6. Repeat.

Stretch and Stability

A few additional ways to alleviate knee pain are to stretch and strengthen the small muscles surrounding the knee. Two places to start are with calf stretches and balance exercises.

“The ankle, knee, hip, back and neck are all tied to balance,” Dr. Burger says. “If you don't have knee pain now, but you can't balance for more than two to three seconds, I can almost predict you will have knee pain in the future.”

1. Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall, then place your hands on the wall at about shoulder height.
  2. Step the leg that you want to stretch back about a step so that the sole of your foot is completely on the floor.
  3. Keeping your back leg straight, bend your front leg until you feel the stretch in the calf of your back leg.

2. Stability Trainer One-leg Balance

  1. Stand on one leg balancing on the TheraBand Stability Trainer.
  2. Keep your back and neck in a neutral position and maintain an upright posture. (Use support as needed.)
  3. See how long you can balance on one leg at a time and try to increase that time. For a greater challenge, close your eyes.(Use support as needed.Use a Roller Massager

Another inexpensive way to address knee pain is by foam rolling. “Patients find relief, decreased pain and increased mobility within seconds,” Dr. Burger says. In fact, research has shown that rolling the quadriceps for two minutes led to a 10-percent increase in knee joint range of motion. But you don't need to spend two minutes on one muscle. Another study found that foam rolling for as little as five seconds helps.

The TheraBand Roller Massager , which is a hand-held roller, is a convenient option for getting the benefits of foam rolling in a small package. You can vary the amount of pressure you use to massage virtually any body part.

“A lot of people travel, and if you use the Roller Massager and the CLX, you can take those in your bag,” Dr. Burger says. “You might only need to see your physical therapist one or two times a week since you can use those on your own the other days.” That saves you time and money.

Apply Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape is an impactful tool to help alleviate your knee pain. “We find really great success with TheraBand® Kinesiology Tape™,” Dr. Burger says. Studies have found that kinesiology tape can help ease pain when climbing stairs and reduce the pain associated with patellofemoral syndrome (when the cartilage under your kneecap is damaged either from injury or overuse).

“There are hundreds of ways to tape the knee and people get great relief from it,” Dr. Burger says. The tape's XactStretch™ Technology makes it easy for beginners to apply and get the exact tension they need. As you stretch the tape, the hexagon pattern on the tape stretches to show you how much tension you’re getting. So when the small shape forms an equilateral hexagon, the tape is at 25 percent stretch. And when the large shape forms an equilateral hexagon, the tape is at 50 percent stretch. Check out this video for a brief tutorial on taping for knee pain:

TheraBand Kinesiology Tape also lasts longer than KT Tape® Pro and Kinesio® Tex Gold™ tape because of its superior adhesion. Adhesion is where the power of kinesiology tape comes in—if it doesn’t stick and stay stuck, it doesn’t work. Because TheraBand XactStretch kinesiology tape has been proven to work better for up to five days, you can apply it and forget about it, while still enjoying its benefits.

Apply Cold Therapy

This age-old solution is age-old for a reason: it works. Whether it’s in the form of ice or a topical pain reliever, cold therapy is great for:

    • Injuries that have occurred in the last 24 hours
    • Areas that are swollen, inflamed or bruised
    • Recently strained, pulled or sprained joints that are swollen and warm to the touch

Cold therapy has traditionally been a solution for knee pain, but it’s hard to find time to sit still with a bag of ice on your knee. Instead, try applying a topical pain reliever like, Biofreeze® Pain Reliever. Applying Biofreeze to the knee has been shown to make everyday activities, including walking and going up and down stairs, less painful. In one study, pain during these tasks decreased in knee osteoarthritis sufferers. You can even use Biofreeze along with Kinesiology Tape—all you have to do is follow these instructions.

Apply Heat Therapy

Some arthritis sufferers find relief with ice, while others have less pain using heat.

Once the initial injury phase is complete, heat therapy can be a great option for pain relief, right at home. Apply a knee wrap to help with joint stiffness and aches. Remember, heat can make inflammation worse if used in the wrong circumstance, so be sure you’re using your cold and hot packs correctly.

Heat therapy is best for:

    • Injuries once swelling subsides (usually after 24-48 hours)
    • Arthritis and other ailments that cause joint stiffness
    • Chronic aches and muscle spasms

Heat therapy offers soothing relief, but you should always make sure you ask your healthcare professional for recommendations on whether you should ice or heat any injury or chronic pain. No one wants to make their knee pain worse if they can avoid it!

When Should You Seek Professional Care?

If you experience knee pain, Dr. Burger advises seeing someone as soon as possible if:

    • There is swelling
    • The knee is popping and/or clicking, particularly if it’s painful
    • The knee buckles or gives way
    • You have limited function of the knee

If you do not experience these symptoms/conditions, wait a week. If the knee still bothers you, seek attention from a healthcare professional. Dr. Burger recommends seeing an orthopedic clinical specialist (OCS) or an orthopedic certified specialist in physical therapy. You can find specialized healthcare providers in your area using the Professional Finder. Simply select which body part(s) are causing you pain and which types of healthcare professionals you'd like to see, and you'll get a list of providers near your zip code.

No matter which types of remedies you choose, be sure that you find one that works for you. Every body is different, so what works for someone else may not provide you the same amount of comfort. Do what works, but don’t forget that there is professional care out there for when your current methods of pain management are no longer effective.

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