Knee Pain Treatments

Common Treatments for a Variety of Pain

Male athlete holding ice pack to knee, overhead view
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Knee pain occurs for a variety of reasons, and the best treatment for an injury will often depend on the type of injury, the severity, and the individual. Your physician will prescribe specific recommendations for your situation, so always have you knee pain evaluated if it doesn't resolve within a few days. Delaying treatment can often result in a longer healing process or even a chronic problem, so seek treatment as soon as possible.

The most conservative treatment recommended for all kinds of soft tissue injuries is the R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). Using this method can reduce swelling and pain during acute injuries.

Treatments for Specific Knee Injuries


Many doctors recommend that patients with chondromalacia perform low-impact exercises that strengthen muscles, without injuring joints (swimming, cycling, walking). At times a physician may perform arthroscopic surgery to smooth the surface of the articular cartilage and clean and smooth out cartilage fragments that rub on the surface of the femur.

Meniscus Injury

If the tear in the meniscus is minor and the pain and other symptoms go away, the doctor may recommend a visit to a Physical Therapist for a muscle-strengthening program. If the tear to a meniscus is more extensive, arthroscopic surgery may be performed. The meniscus can be repaired in some cases.

If the tear is more extensive, a small piece may be removed to even the surface. In some cases, the doctor removes the entire meniscus. However, degenerative changes, such as osteoarthritis, are more likely to develop in the knee if the meniscus is removed. Researchers are developing procedures that may replace a meniscus in the near future.

Cruciate Ligament Injuries - ACL - PCL

For an incomplete tear to a cruciate ligament, a doctor may recommend a visit to a Physical Therapist to strengthen surrounding muscles. A knee brace may also be warranted. If the ACL is completely torn, surgery may be indicated. The torn ends of the ligament may be reattached or completely reconstructed with a graft.

Collateral Ligament Injuries - MCL - LCL

Most sprains of the collateral ligaments will heal if the patient follows a prescribed exercise program, including R.I.C.E. and bracing.


Most often osteoarthritis of the knee is treated with an over-the-counter pain medication or an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, Advil). Exercises may be recommended to strengthen the knee, as well as encourage weight loss.


Tendinitis is typically treated with R.I.C.E. and ibuprofen to relieve pain and decrease inflammation and swelling. If the tendon is completely ruptured, surgery is necessary to reattach the tendon.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Usually, iliotibial band syndrome eases with reduced activity. Strengthening and stretching exercises can also alleviate the IT band pain.