Why Your Knee Feels Tight When Bending

knee feels tight when bending
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A common complaint about the knees is tightness and stiffness. Injury, mechanical difficulties, or physical pressures on your knees, such as extra weight, can all create tightness in your knee. In addition, a lack of strength or flexibility may be partly responsible when your knee feels tight when bending. 

If you’ve had a knee injury or have a medical condition like gout, arthritis, or an infection, you’re more prone to have knee tightness. Physical therapy is a crucial part of the recovery process for any musculoskeletal injury or discomfort. At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, our physical therapists and determine the best course to treat knee stiffness, which may include surgery or therapeutic exercises. A qualified sports medicine doctor Dallas will ensure that you receive the treatment you need to get back in the game.

Stiff Knee Pain

Your body sends out pain signals to keep you from aggravating an injury. Pain, like any other persistent ailment, can create stiffness in the knees because it restricts movement.

Excess fluid builds up inside the knee as a result of an accident, overuse, or a medical issue. Stiffness and pain can result as a result of this. Unless you’ve had a serious injury, you may not notice swelling because it can be subtle. While you may not visibly see a swollen knee, you may feel it as stiffness. 

Because there is less space in the knee due to the swelling, movement is limited. Irritation, internal bleeding, and knee injuries can all lead to fluid buildup. This causes your knee to feel tight when bending.

Causes of Pain, Swelling, and Knee Stiffness

knee feels tight when bending

Knee stiffness and knee instability commonly occur in older adults and individuals who exercise vigorously. This can be caused by a lack of flexibility or muscular imbalances in the legs. Knee stiffness can also be caused by injury or arthritis. To gain a better understanding of what may be causing your knee pain, take a look at our Knee Pain Location Chart. Some of the most prevalent causes of a stiff knee are listed below.

Injured Ligaments

Injuries to the knee ligaments can result from trauma or hyperextension. These are common in people who are very active or who participate in sports. There may be internal bleeding if you sprain, rupture, or tear one of the knee ligaments. Swelling, stiffness, and restricted movement result from ligament injuries.

Injured Meniscus

tight knees when bending

The cartilage between the bones of the knee joint becoming damaged or torn causes a meniscus injury. Applying pressure to or rotating your knee, which is typical in sports that require quick spins and stops, can be the culprit of cartilage damage. Something as simple as standing up too quickly from a squat or taking the stairs may also create meniscal tears. They can also be caused by degenerative disorders like osteoarthritis.

Pain and swelling are a symptom of a meniscus tear. Moving your knee through its complete range of motion may be hard, and it might feel stuck in one position. These movement constraints cause your knee to feel tight when bending.

Tightness after Knee Surgery

After surgery, it’s expected that your knee feels tight when bending. This can be improved with adequate treatment. After surgery, it’s critical to follow the right steps to thoroughly heal and avoid knee tightness. By practicing rehabilitation exercises, you can improve the strength, stability, and flexibility of your knee. 

Some common surgical procedures for the knee include:

Keep your knee brace on after surgery and use crutches. Be sure that the brace fits correctly. Two fingers should be able to fit beneath the strap. The brace is usually worn for two to six weeks.


tight knee

Knee pain without injury and stiffness can be caused by three different forms of arthritis:

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own tissues. It usually affects both knees.

Swelling of the synovial membrane, a thin membrane that covers the inside lining of the knee joint, is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. This swelling causes knee stiffness and joint inflammation.


The wear and tear of the cartilage between the bones causes knee osteoarthritis. The bones within the knee rub against each other as the cartilage within the knee deteriorates. The friction of the bones can result in spurs, which are bony growths. These cause stiffness and joint inflammation.

Post-traumatic arthritis

Injuries such as meniscal and ligament tears can raise the risk of subsequent injury to the knee joint. This can eventually lead to post-traumatic arthritis. This type of arthritis develops years after a person suffers a knee injury.

Knee symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis include:

  • Edema in the knee joint
  • Pain in the knee
  • Weak knees
  • Symptoms become worse after physical activity
  • Wet weather worsens symptoms

Weak Muscles

Knee tightness can be prevented by maintaining flexibility in the leg muscles around your knee. This helps keep them strong enough to support your body. Knee tightness is supposed to be reduced by strong legs, hips, and buttocks.

Exercises and Stretches That May Help

tight knees

People whose knee feels tight when bending should avoid exercising in some instances. That’s because some knee ailments require time to heal and may be better served by rest than exercise.

A stiff knee caused by arthritis, on the other hand, may benefit from exercising. According to the Arthritis Foundation, certain workouts and stretches can aid in various ways:

  • Strengthening exercises: Increasing muscular strength around the knee joint relieves joint tension. Leg lifts and hamstring curls are examples of these exercises.
  • Range-of-motion exercises: Stretches and exercises that expand the range of motion of the knee keep the joint moving, which helps to alleviate stiffness. Heel slides and stretching with a yoga strap are examples of these activities.
  • Aerobic exercises: Cardio exercises can increase a person’s energy levels and help them lose weight, which helps reduce strain on the knee. Cycling and swimming are examples of these exercises.
  • Balance exercises: The muscles surrounding the knee are strengthened, while also lowering the danger of falling and further damaging the joint. Single leg standing and standing on a foam pad are two examples of these workouts.

Before beginning any new fitness routines or programs, a person with arthritis should consult with their doctor.

Tips for Knee Stretches and Knee Exercises

It’s critical to follow a few tips when conducting knee stretches and exercises in order to get the most out of them. Here are some pointers:

  • Warm up before stretching your muscles.
  • Don’t bounce in a stretch. Instead, slowly ease into it to avoid tearing a muscle.
  • Stretch for a minimum of ten minutes at least two to three times each week. Stretching frequently helps improve your range of motion and flexibility.
  • Be sure to use correct posture and proper form during stretching or exercise.
  • Equally stretch all sides of your body.
  • Don’t force tight muscles to stretch further than they’re comfortable with.
  • You know your body. Go to your limit, but don’t over do it or cause yourself pain. 

Stiff Knee Treatment Options

Treatment choices when a knee feels tight when bending are determined by the underlying cause.

If the damage is slight, the following home remedies may relieve pain and reduce swelling while the injury heals:

  • Rest your knee
  • Regularly apply an ice pack to the knee
  • Use over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Stabilize your knee and reduce the risk of further injury with a knee brace  

Those with more serious injuries or recurrent knee pain should speak with their doctor. The doctor determines the reason for the knee stiffness and makes therapy recommendations.

These therapies can vary depending on the reason for the knee stiffness:

  • Utilizing corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • Improving knee function and total mobility with physical therapy
  • Pharmaceuticals for rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Taking prescription pain medications

When to See a Doctor

If a person suspects a torn or injured knee, they should consult a doctor as soon as possible. Immediate treatment helps to limit the danger of additional harm.

Additionally, if a person’s knee feels tight when bending and is accompanied by other symptoms like pain or edema, they should visit a doctor.

Call SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy Today

knee tightness

Knee stiffness is a common issue. People who are highly active or play sports and older adults are most likely to experience it.

A knee feels tight when bending for a variety of factors, including accidents and arthritis. Knee stiffness and accompanying symptoms are often relieved with rest, ice packs, and over-the-counter drugs.

We at SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy have extensive experience serving the Dallas and Frisco communities. Whether you require surgery or physical therapy, we can help. Please call our office at 469-200-2832 or complete our online intake form today, for additional information or to make an appointment with us.