What to know about tightness in the knee

What to know about tightness in the knee

A feeling of tightness or stiffness in the knee can develop as a result of overuse, injury, or wear and tear age – related.

This article discusses some common causes of knee tightness and the related symptoms. It also offers several treatment options to relieve tightness in the knee.


Strengthening the upper leg muscles
Strengthening the upper leg muscles may help support and protect the knee joint. Step-ups can strengthen the knee and relieve tightness.

Here are some common causes of knee tightness.

Meniscal tear

Within the knee joint, the menisci are two crescent shaped cartilage pads. They help to stabilize the knee joint and allow knee to move smoothly and flexibly.

Menisci injuries or tears may occur during sport, or as a result of general wear and tear.

When your meniscus tears a person can hear or feel a “pop.” Other common Meniscal Tear symptoms include:

  • pain, swelling, or tenderness around the knee
  • a feeling that the knee locks, gets stuck, or does not fully straighten
  • pain when fully bending the knee, such as when squatting


The treatment a doctor provides will depend on a variety of factors, including: According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

  • the location and severity of the tear
  • the person’s age
  • their activity levels
  • their symptoms

In some cases, this injury may require surgery.

Ligament or tendon injury

The ligaments and tendons are fibrous connective tissue structures. Ligaments connect bones to other bones, while tendons connect bones to muscles.

Injuries of knee ligaments or tendons most commonly occur during athletics or other athletic exercise.

Ligament or tendon injuries can cause the following symptoms:

  • knee pain, knee swelling, or both
  • pain when fully straightening or bending the knee
  • a feeling that the knee is unstable or about to give way


Therapies for ligament or tendon injuries rely on the extent of the damage. A doctor can prescribe:

  • wearing a knee brace to help stabilize and protect the knee joint
  • trying muscle-strengthening exercises
  • doing gentle stretches

Any ligament and tendon conditions need orthopedic surgical surgery to restore support to the knee joint.


Two major forms of arthritis may cause knee tightness: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of arthritis in the US, affecting more than 32.5 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

That happens when the cartilage breaks down and helps strengthen a joint, ultimately allowing bone to rub against bone.

Osteoarthritis usually results in symptoms such as:

  • joint inflammation and swelling
  • joint pain
  • joint stiffness, particularly after sitting or lying down for a period of time


Although there is currently no cure for knee osteoarthritis, the following may help ease the symptoms:

  • losing weight (when appropriate) to reduce load bearing on the knee joint
  • physiotherapy, which can help strengthen the muscles around the knee joint
  • taking medication to help treat joint inflammation and pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

If these procedures do not relieve a person’s symptoms, an orthopedic surgeon may prescribe partial or complete replacement of the joint (which is surgery to replace a damaged joint with an artificial joint) or osteotomy (which is surgery involving rearranging the bone either above or below the knee to move the joint’s weight bearing away from the damaged region).

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system targets healthy cells inside the body in the wrong direction. This disease mostly affects the joints but it can also affect other tissues of the body.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause persistent pain and discomfort within joints, according to the CDC. Both knees often get affected by the condition.


Rheumatoid arthritis actually does not get healed. However, medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic medications can help delay the condition ‘s development.

Furthermore, the following self-help strategies can help alleviate pain and enhance joint function:

  • increasing physical activity levels
  • losing weight (when appropriate)
  • quitting smoking


Knee arthrofibrosis, or stiff leg syndrome, happens when too much scar tissue builds up around the joint in the leg. The disorder can grow after surgery to the knee.

Arthrofibrosis signs include knee joint pain , swelling and hot. People with this disorder can also have a bent knee or a limp walk.


Early on, the manageability of minor symptoms of arthrofibrosis with physiotherapy. However, more advanced cases with greater rigidity also need surgery to remove the scar tissue and increase motion range.

When to seek help

If a person has serious or chronic knee tightness, a doctor may see him. Any other signs which may suggest that medical attention is needed include:

  • pain or swelling around the knee joint
  • locking or painful clicking of the knee joint
  • a feeling that the knee is about to give way
  • an inability to bear weight on the affected leg

The doctor will inquire about the symptoms of the victim, and then do a physical knee test. They may also order one of the tests below:

  • Imaging tests: An X-ray or MRI scan may help reveal structural irregularities or injuries of the knee.
  • Joint aspiration: This is a procedure that involves using a needle and syringe to remove fluid from inside the knee joint. A laboratory technician will then analyze the sample to determine the cause of the knee problem.
  • Knee arthroscopy: This is a type of keyhole surgery that involves inserting a tiny camera into the knee joint to examine the cartilage and other tissues inside the knee.

Exercises for tight knees

Strengthening the muscles in the upper legs will help strengthen and secure the knee joint.

Below are a few basic home exercises which can help strengthen the muscles and alleviate knee tightness.

Straight-leg raise (sitting)

To perform the straight-leg raise in a sitting position:

  1. Sit on a chair and straighten one leg out in front, so that it raises upward.
  2. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
  3. Slowly lower the leg back down.
  4. Repeat these steps 10 times on each leg.

People can also perform this exercise while lying on the floor.

Muscle stretch

The following exercise may help prevent the loss of full knee extension:

  1. Lie flat on the floor with one leg straight out in front and the other bent at the knee.
  2. Place a rolled-up towel beneath the ankle of the straightened leg.
  3. Push the back of the straightened knee firmly toward the floor.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Repeat these steps at least five times on each leg.


This exercise requires the use of stairs or a step platform:

  1. Step onto the stair or step platform with the right foot, then bring the left foot up to meet it.
  2. Step down with the right foot, then step down with the left foot.
  3. Repeat the exercise, but start with the left foot this time.
  4. Repeat these steps as many times as feels comfortable.

Home remedies

Any home remedies may be helping to relieve tightness and rigidity. The parts below would include a more detailed description of certain home remedies.

PRICE therapy

PRICE stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

  • Protection: This means taking a break from physical activities that could cause further knee strain or injury.
  • Rest: This can reduce the risk of further injury and allow damaged tissues to heal.
  • Ice: This can help reduce swelling and inflammation. A person should wrap the ice in a cloth before applying it to the skin.
  • Compression: This may help limit swelling and inflammation.
  • Elevation: Keeping the knee raised above the level of the heart may reduce swelling.

Regular exercise

An individual should prefer low-impact physical exercises as much as possible which are more tender on the joints.

Some examples include:

  • swimming
  • cycling
  • using an elliptical trainer
  • using a rowing machine
  • yoga
  • tai chi


Knee tightness can be caused by damage to the tendons , ligaments, or cartilage within the knee. In some cases, it may be a symptom of an underlying health condition.

Anyone feeling tightness of one or both knees should see a specialist for diagnosis and proper care.

Simple strengthening exercises can help muscle build up around the knee joints. This will assist in strengthening the knee and defending against future damage.