Non-Surgical approaches to managing chronic knee pain

Nov 10, 2023

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Is knee pain slowing you down? Did you used to love going on runs or long walks with your dog but can't anymore? Here's some options to consider when addressing chronic knee pain.


Knee Pain: When You Need Relief

Do you struggle with knee pain? Our knees are susceptible to sports related injury or the eventual “wear and tear” of everyday life. Knee pain affects people with all kinds of lifestyles, activity levels, and ages. While it may be something that you try to deal with by “walking it off”, this strategy is at best ineffective and at worst can cause more problems. Taking a proactive approach by working with your medical team to find the cause of your knee pain is vital to getting you back to what matters in your life. 

What are some common treatments for knee pain? 

One of the first treatments that people will use to alleviate knee pain is an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). NSAIDs are common over the counter painkillers such as Ibuprofen, Aspirin, or Aleve. NSAIDs are intended for use in the short term for temporary ailments that are expected to resolve over time such as headaches and muscle soreness. The long-term use of NSAIDs can become problematic as they do come with risk of potential side effects such as acute kidney damage​ and stomach ulcers​1,2. This method only works to cover up the symptoms and does not address the underlying cause of the knee pain.

Another treatment often given to people with debilitating pain is an Opioid. Both patients and providers are often concerned about Opioid prescriptions because of their potential to create a physical dependency as well as leading to potential addiction. Like with NSAIDs, opiates are intended for temporary problems and are not able to treat the underlying issue that is causing pain. 

Steroid injections are another common treatment for knee pain. These injections may be prescribed as a treatment to temporarily help reduce local inflammation in the joint. Steroid injections tend to only provide symptomatic relief for about four weeks and can also cause long-term side effects such as increased cartilage loss and degeneration. This method is not often recommended as a long-term treatment solution.​3,4 

As you see above, the common treatments for knee pain are focused on medication rather than finding the root cause of your pain. 

In my practice, I offer a variety of comprehensive treatments to address knee pain that are effective complements to standard treatments. These treatments include acupuncture, nutritional counseling, and Prolotherapy. 


Non-Medication Based Options for Healing 



Acupuncture is a medical modality that has been practiced in China for over 3,000 years. Acupuncture is gaining popularity worldwide as an effective method for treating pain, and as its popularity grows more research is substantiating the use of this modality for pain.​5 Acupuncture works by stimulating points on the body with small needles; causing decreases in inflammation and relief from pain and muscle spasms. Acupuncture is also effective in relieving stress, anxiety, and depression that can manifest when living with chronic pain.​6 Acupuncture can treat knee pain of all types; whether it is acute pain from a sports or life-related injury, or chronic pain from osteoarthritis.​

Anti-inflammatory Diet 

Eating a healthy diet can help you take control of your wellbeing. Recently there has been a substantial amount of research to suggest that following a mostly plant based, whole food diet may help to decrease pain.​7 The anti-inflammatory diet does this by limiting processed foods that contain additives, fillers, and preservatives, all of which can heighten your inflammatory markers. ​Additionally, you are able to effectively raise your natural intake of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals all by changing what you eat. 

Platelet Rich Plasma

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is an injection therapy designed to treat chronic pain and stimulate soft tissue healing. There is clinical evidence that these injections can also induce cartilage regeneration; which is essential for our joints to function and move around easily.​8 Ensuring your knees have enough cartilage can be a crucial part of reducing your pain. 

The results from PRP injections are long lasting. In follow-up pain assessments, patients report continued reduction in pain.​8 The results speak for themselves, making PRP a safe, conservative treatment method for chronic knee pain. 

Want to start alleviating your knee pain? 

My name is Dr. David Chang. I’m a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist specializing in chronic pain and sports medicine. I currently practice at the Kwan Yin Healing Arts Center in Portland, Oregon. I view pain management as solving a series of puzzles and I use my knowledge and experience to guide you through this. 

I have received special training in orthopedic acupuncture. My practice combines sports medicine principles with Chinese Medicinal approaches. Additionally, I specialize in the use of Regenerative injection therapies such as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), Prolotherapy and will complete an assessment to determine whether this treatment may be right for you. 

Good nutrition is a building block to health. I also specialize in nutrition status testing and can provide in-depth, individualized nutrition plans to support your overall health and injury recovery. These plans are approachable and effective. I have had great success utilizing these three strategies to address knee pain in patients. 

Are you tired of living with debilitating knee pain? Schedule an appointment to find out how acupuncture, dietary changes, and Prolotherapy can help you get back to your old self. I look forward to hearing from you!