Stiff Knees

What is it and how is it treated?

How Do You Loosen Up Stiff Knees?

As a person gets older, it’s common to get stiff knees. This article discusses the causes of knee stiffness, what you can do to reduce it, and the associated symptoms of pain, swelling, and discomfort. 

In addition, the doctors at OrthoNeuro in Columbus, Ohio, offer the latest technology for knee surgery.

Our wide range of non-surgical options are available to build back your strength and range of motion, getting you back to your life.

Now, let’s look at the common causes of stiff knees.

1. Ligament Injuries

You may injure your ligaments by over-extending your knee or through trauma. If you sprain, rupture, or tear your ligament, there may be internal bleeding. This causes swelling, stiffness, and limited movement.

How to Treat an Injured Knee Ligament:

  • RICE. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation help to reduce swelling.
  • Take NSAIDs. Medicine such as ibuprofen reduces swelling and pain.
  • Use knee support. They protect and support the ligaments while they recover.
  • Physical therapy or surgery. Only required if the injury is severe.

2. Injured Meniscus

A meniscus injury refers to a tear or other damage to the cartilage inside the knee joint. This is caused by too much pressure on your knee or rotation.

Meniscal tears can also occur with the development of degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Tearing your meniscus will cause pain and swelling, and your range of motion may be limited. This will lead to stiffness in the knee.

How to Treat an Injured Meniscus:

  • RICE. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation help to reduce swelling.
  • Take NSAIDs. Medicine such as ibuprofen reduces swelling and pain.
  • Keep your weight off the affected knee.
  • Physical therapy or surgery may be necessary.

3. Tightness After Knee Surgery

If you have recently had knee surgery, then some knee stiffness is to be expected. You will need to build your strength back slowly without rushing the healing process. 

Rehabilitation should focus on strength, stability, and flexibility. You can expect full recovery to take between 3 to 12 months depending on the severity and type of surgery.

How to Relieve Knee Stiffness After Surgery:

  • Place an ice pack on your knee for 10-20 minutes every hour.
  • Keep your leg elevated for the first few days including while you sleep.
  • Make sure your knee brace fits correctly.
  • Use crutches until your doctor says it’s ok not to.
  • Follow all instructions that your doctor recommends.

4. Knee Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two types of arthritis that often create knee tightness. Osteoarthritis refers to wear and tear on the cartilage within the knee.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes damage to the knee joint lining resulting in inflammation. Both types of arthritis can lead to joint stiffness and poor range of motion.

How to Manage Arthritis Stiffness:

  • Do exercises that strengthen the surrounding muscle groups and create knee stability
  • Perform low-impact activities, such as walking, water aerobics, or cycling.
  • Take NSAIDs such as ibuprofen 45 minutes before you exercise.
  • Apply heat to your knees before starting your workout
  • Apply ice to your knees when you finish exercising.

5. Weak Muscles

Strong flexible leg muscles are thought to reduce knee tightness.

Having strong quadriceps may help reduce the risk of knee problems since stronger muscles can help to support the knee joint. A link has also been found between weak leg muscles and knee pain.

Treatment Options for Your Leg Muscles:

  • Perform exercises that promote healthy movement in your knees
  • Perform stretches to increase flexibility
  • Consult with a physical therapist which activities would help your specific needs.


If you have a severe knee injury or chronic knee pain that reduces your mobility or quality of life, contact OrthoNeuro to schedule a consultation. Our expert orthopedic surgeons are on hand to diagnose and treat your knee problem.

Make an Appointment with an OrthoNeuro Specialist Today! 

  • If you have been experiencing stiffness in your knees and limited range of motion, schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Orthopedic Knee Specialists at one of our 7 convenient locations throughout Greater Columbus. 
  • We will evaluate your unique lifestyle and goals to determine which type of treatment is best for you. 
  • Best of all, most patients can be seen within 24 hours of making an appointment. 
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