HELLO! And welcome to my stiff and painful knee blog. Now how many of us have experienced a stiff but also painful knee? The reason for a stiff and painful knee can be a number of factors but most commonly the cause can fall under three categories; muscular soreness, underlying pathologies or position holding.
I’ve got a funny feeling that given the situation we’re all in at the moment we’re either; 1) doing a lot of activities that we haven’t done before because it’s all we can do OR 2) sitting a lot more because it’s all we can do!!!
Either way there are a lot of tips that you can do to elicit optimal knee joint health. But before we delve into how we can help ourselves; it is super important that we have an understanding of the structures we are dealing with!
Now don’t panic about all of these big and scientific words. I simply wanted to include this diagram to visually show how complex the knee joint is and how there is so much that goes on in and around the knee joint.
The most common areas of interest when dealing with a stiff knee are;
Muscular soreness is super common following a heavy training session or eliciting load that is deemed out of the norm for ourselves day to day. Some of you may have taken up running, power walking or even skipping. It is activities such as these that can be a cause of muscle soreness. The term used mostly is ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS) and this can sometimes leave the knee feeling a little stiff and sore when moving through flexion (bent knee) to extension (straight knee) (Dutto and Braun 2004).
Sometimes we can cause a heightened sensitivity under and around the knee-cap (patella). This can lead to the front of the knee feeling quite tender and sore on certain movements and on touch. Desensitising this through movement and hands on treatment can be very beneficial (Dutton 2012).
Lastly when we hold ourselves in any one position for a period of time our bodies begin to conserve energy. A result of this is a feeling of stiffness and restriction in and around a joint where the surrounding structures have switched off in a way (Hakim, Keer and Grahame 2010). For example, prolonged sitting where the knee is in relatively deep flexion (bent knee) for long periods of time can result in the knee adapting to this held position and therefore, coming out of it can be troublesome.
How many of us are working from home? Is your working space a makeshift office in the hope you’ll eventually return to ‘normal’ work? Is being at home resulting in you barely leaving your seat with there being no reason to gossip in the canteen or make a coffee with your colleagues. Changes in our routines such as these can have a real effect on our joints. The lack of movement that has become apparent from people working from home has meant joints, especially knees, have become stiff and sore.
If you are experiencing joint stiffness and pain after a training session, then it is really important to look after the surrounding soft tissue. The lateral quadricep (vastus lateralis) can become very tight, irritating the glide of the kneecap (patella). Focusing on;
Foam rolling the quadriceps regularly as a maintenance session
Completing a stretching routine where possible to supplement your training.
Will both aid your recovery and decrease you symptoms.
If your job requires a lot of desk bound work and prolonged sitting this can irritate the knee also. It may not always be convenient but incorporating a
Walk into your day will help circulate the joint fluid around the knee, helping with lubrications. Also, at this point here, getting out and breaking up your working day will do wonders for the mind! In addition to this completing some;
Seated knee slides will help move the knee through that fixed flexed (bent) position which alters the joint angle slightly aiding relief in that joint.
Give these little tips a try next time that knee is being troublesome and see if you can give it a little helping hand with regards to its recovery.
For any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me!
Thanks for reading
BSc Hons Sports Therapy MSST
MSc Strength and Conditioning
Dutto, D. J and Braun, W. A, (2004), ‘DOMS-Associated changes in ankle and knee joint dynamics during running’, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(4), 560-566.
Dutton, M. (2012), Dutton’s Orthopaedic Examination Evaluation and Intervention. McGraw Hill Professional, 3rd edition, USA: Pennsylvania.
Hakim, A. J, Keer, R. J and Grahame, R. (2010), Hypermobility, fibromyalgia and chronic pain, Elsevier Health Sciences.