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10 Tips for Knee Pain with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Managing RA

May 11, 2022

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Ivan Gener/Stocksy United

Ivan Gener/Stocksy United

by Alexis Rochester


Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT


by Alexis Rochester


Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT


From heat packs, CBD ointments, and anti-inflammatory smoothies, these tips might help reduce your knee and joint pain.

It has been 25 years since I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Although I have it in many joints, my knees have often caused the most problems. I have spent the last decade trying and testing everything possible to combat knee pain.

Listed below are 10 of my best tips. They have been my saviors to make sure I can continue doing the things I love, like walking, exercising, and most importantly, playing with my daughter.

The great thing about these tips is that they each have their own merits and uses — one might be more effective in a certain scenario than another.

Some of these tips are quick relief methods, and the others are long-term management. Using many or all of them has been my answer to living successfully with chronic knee pain. I hope they can be helpful for you too!

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Quick relief methods

These methods are my favorites for some instant quick relief during a flare, or for any joint pain that might suddenly occur.

IR heat therapy

There are several types of heat therapy, but one of the most therapeutic I have used is an infrared (IR) heat lamp. I have one in my house, and it has been fantastic to use during an arthritic flare or even as a weekly treatment.

IR light enhances cell regeneration, stimulating the production of collagen proteins. A 2009 study using IR heat therapy in a sauna found that pain and stiffness decreased clinically for RA patients during the course of an IR session.

This heat therapy feels like it soothes deep into my muscles and joints, leaving my knee feeling great.

Quick heat

In addition to heat therapy like the IR heat lamp, quick heat is an important tool for knee pain. I use a few different quick heat methods for instant soothing relief.

When I’m at home, I use a heating pad that you plug in. I love keeping this by my bed for nighttime treatment. It helps me feel less stiff before going to bed, and I wake up feeling more refreshed.

A more portable alternative is a microwavable heating pad. It produces a moist heat when you put it in the microwave, which is very soothing for painful joints. I use this if I am working in my office or sitting on the couch.

These types of heat therapy promote blood flow and help relax tightened muscles.

Topical treatments

There are dozens of topical treatments out there, and I have tirelessly tried them all.

One that has worked more successfully for my knee pain is a topical CBD. I have a roll on and a cream. I keep the roll on in my gym bag, which is helpful to use after an exercise or a walk. The cream is great to use at night.

There is some initial research on animals that suggests CBD can relieve joint pain with fewer side effects and risks compared with other common medications.

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Long-term management

The following are methods that should produce more long-term results. But remember: Consistency is key and management is a lifestyle, so stick with them if you can, and you should start to see some results.

Foam rolling

I started foam rolling after going through physical therapy for RA pain in my knee. They said my iliotibial (IT) band was very tight, which was causing more knee pain in addition to my RA.

I now regularly foam roll my legs and glutes, which helps loosen my IT band and relieve any soreness.

TENS therapy

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or “TENS therapy,” is another tip I learned in physical therapy many years ago, and it continues to be something I use for knee pain. A TENS unit works by producing small electrical impulses that target parts of your body to relieve pain.

There are many types of TENS machines. I have two different types: a regular one, and one you can wear on your knee while you walk. When I recovered from knee surgery, this was a huge help for me. It is also great for arthritic pain when you walk.

Trigger point ball

Like foam rolling, which loosens tight muscles, trigger point balls have also been a great addition to treat my knee pain. These balls are small and hard, so you can place them directly on an area like your glute or hamstring.

I have been doing this on my legs for several years, and it has been beneficial for tight muscles. Keeping the muscles around your knee stretched out and in good shape is very helpful for knee pain.

Turmeric liquid

I have tried many supplements, but the one I have seen a noticeable difference using is turmeric liquid. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve pain.

During an arthritic flare, I will take a dropper-full every day. It helps dull pain for me. When I am feeling pretty good, I like to take it every couple of days just to keep up with inflammation.


Many exercises make my knee pain worse, but reformer Pilates has been the first exercise I have done that does not bother my knee.

It has also helped strengthen my core and leg muscles. I have had much less knee pain since starting Pilates 4 years ago. I now do it 2 or 3 days a week.

Even on days when my knee is acting up and walking is difficult, I am always able to do a Pilates workout.

Physical therapy

This is a knee pain tip many people overlook unless they have something like an injury or surgery. I have done physical therapy just for RA pain, and it was very beneficial. My rheumatologist set it up through my insurance to go twice a week for a few months.

The physical therapist evaluated areas where I have muscle weakness, but they also did special things like needle therapy and massage. It gave me so many other methods that I have been able to use in my own time.

Anti-inflammatory smoothie

The last tip for you is making a smoothie packed full of inflammation-fighting foods.

The best thing I have done is keep a balanced diet, eliminate sugar, and make this anti-inflammatory smoothie. It works so well because it contains things like lemon, flaxseed, greens, and cinnamon. This has been the best combination for me, and I feel great when I drink it regularly during an arthritic flare in my knees.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

Medically reviewed on May 11, 2022

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About the author

Alexis Rochester

Alexis Rochester is an investigative chemist, blogger, and founder of Chemistry Cachet. She shares science-based skin care, cleaning, gardening, and health tips. She was diagnosed with RA at age 10, so she has a passion for pain management tips and research, along with sharing her journey through this disease. She lives in Texas with her daughter, husband, and bulldog. You can find her posting pictures and fun stories daily on Instagram. Also look for Chemistry Cachet on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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