Stiff knees are common with any sort of knee injuries or natural aging and it’s important to know how to effectively manage this type of issue. With a well-curated exercise program, stiff knees can be a thing of the past, or at least pose less of a strain on your normal routine. Keep reading to learn more about the right exercises for stiff knees.
Whether your knee stiffness is from an injury to a meniscus, ligament, rheumatoid arthritis, knee osteoarthritis, or other common causes, an effective home exercise program for your stiff or painful knees should include a mix of modalities Including stretching, strengthening, and general full-body movements.
Tight or stiff hamstrings can make it hard to properly straighten the knee with standing or walking. Try this stretch after a prolonged period of sitting or lying down.
In addition to the hamstrings, the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh can often get tight. Tight quads can make it feel impossible to bend the knee comfortably and affect proper tracking of the kneecap. Stretching these muscles daily can help.
Gentle daily knee range of motion is one of the best ways to promote better joint movement and reduce the effects of stiffness. Losing knee range of motion due to lack of stretching or regular activity can exacerbate your discomfort and any pain you're experiencing. Knee range of motion can help combat this and promote optimal knee joint health.
If your knee stiffness is limiting what you can tolerate for exercise, completing strengthening exercises for your legs in sitting is a great option. Additionally, if you spend a lot of time sitting due to your work or recreation, you can also do sitting exercises while multitasking. Below are a few examples of what you can do:
Exercise for stiff knees doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, any type of regular movement (that doesn’t aggravate your symptoms, of course) is great for knee health and reducing stiffness. Walking is one of the easiest ways to get moving, promote circulation, and keep the legs strong and balanced.
Low impact exercise for stiff and painful knees can help you tolerate movement without making your symptoms worse. It can be tempting to avoid exercise because of stiff knees, however, it’s most important to find activities that you can tolerate. This is because one of the best things you can do for your knees is to keep them strong and active. There are a few different ways that you can utilize a pool to your advantage:
Use of cardio equipment at your local gym or in the comfort of your own home is another great way to stay consistently active. Since there are many low-impact options for stationary cardio equipment, it can be ideal for managing knee stiffness and pain too. Options include the following (listed from least impactful to most):
Each option is viable as long as your knees can tolerate it. What’s most important is to choose a piece of equipment that keeps you motivated and engaged so that you can exercise consistently.
It is most important for the knees to keep doing the activities that are important for living daily life and keep you doing what you love. Remember it’s crucial to focus on form and modify anything that causes pain or exacerbates your knee stiffness. Some of the top options for functional movement include the following:
Exercising can seem counterintuitive when you’re feeling stiff and sore. Yet, the right exercises in the right doses can do wonders for loosening up stiff areas. Below are just a few of the reasons that exercise is beneficial for stiff knees:
As you start or continue an exercise program for your knees, there are ways to maximize your outcomes. Keep the following tips in the mind:
Having a hard time tolerating exercise? Try seated workouts or jump in a pool to get your muscles working without the strain of weight-bearing
Use conservative treatment options alongside your exercise program for joint pain relief and tissue health; including over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or naproxen, temperature therapy ( ice pack or heat), electrical stimulation, and foam rolling.
Warm-up and stretch your knees before and after your strengthening exercises
Support the knee with more strenuous activities that might cause you pain and stiffness, with options like a knee brace or compression sleeve
Progress your exercise routine when possible with ankle weights, resistance bands, deeper knee range of motion, and weight-bearing
Avoid overuse of the knees that can lead to strain, such as repetitive stairs, squats, jumping, or other straining high impact moves
Change positions frequently to avoid excessive stiffness, particularly a long period of sitting; try to get up and move or stretch from a stagnant position every hour for at least 5 minutes
Struggling with your exercises and not sure if you’re doing them correctly? Consider physical therapy to maximize your results with a personalized treatment plan, particularly if you’re dealing with an injury or knee osteoarthritis
While joint stiffness of the knees is quite common, you don’t have to settle for living with constant tightness in your joints. Taking the time to give your knees what they need with a little movement can slowly change the way your knees function and feel. As you have now learned, exercises for knee stiffness don’t have to be complicated, just consistent. If your knee stiffness is affecting your quality of life, it’s time to try some exercise and other home treatment modalities.
If that exercise doesn’t seem to be helping, then it’s definitely time to talk to your orthopedic doctor, physical therapist, or another healthcare provider for further medical advice. They may need to order an x-ray or other tests to rule out more serious issues like a fracture or autoimmune disease.
Resources:Stiff Knee Products
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