What Causes a Stiff Knee After Sitting Down?


Several factors can contribute to knee stiffness, which is usually more noticeable after a short period of sitting or inactivity. Injuries and conditions that affect the knee joint, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) , can cause a feeling of stiffness in the knees. Knee stiffness is characterized by a feeling of tightness in and around the knee joint, which may be accompanied by pain, difficulty moving the joint, and / or swelling.

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Causes of knee stiffness

Most people experience stiff knees after sitting for a long time. It is usually the result of inflammation and fluid build-up in the knee joint, causing swelling and reducing the ability to move the joint freely. Various conditions can lead to inflammation and, as a result, stiffness of the knee.


Bursitis is usually a temporary condition that occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction on the joints as they move. There are several bursae in each knee joint.

Overuse is the most common cause of bursitis. If you develop this condition, your knees may feel stiff after sitting for a long time.


Osteoarthritis, also known as wasting arthritis, can cause stiff knees. It is the most common form of arthritis , affecting 10% of men and 13% of women in the age group over 60 years. However, if the knee joint is overused or injured frequently, osteoarthritis can affect young adults as well.

RA, an autoimmune disease , is generally associated with joint stiffness. Morning stiffness is a hallmark of RA. If you experience stiff knee along with additional symptoms like fever and fatigue, you may have RA.

Trauma, damage

Knee injuries can occur during sports or daily activities. In addition to stiffness, you are likely to experience swelling and pain from the injury.

For example, a ligament injury can result from an overstretched knee or traumatic injury. Another common injury is the tear of the meniscus , the part of the C-shaped cartilage along the edge of the knee joint that absorbs shock. This can happen due to a twisting of the knee and is common in sports where you have to squat, twist and reposition a lot. You will feel a snap if you tear the meniscus.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) causes pain in the front of the knee and around the kneecap (kneecap). PFPS is often the result of overuse or misalignment of the patella. It is also called a runner's knee or jumper's knee because it is more common in people who play sports. It affects women more often than men.

PMPS causes stiffness and pain in and under the kneecap, especially after prolonged sitting.


Surgery can cause some postoperative knee stiffness. Arthrofibrosis , also called stiff knee syndrome, can occur after knee surgery. The body's natural response to injury, such as injury or surgery, is the formation of scar tissue. Arthrofibrosis develops when too much scar tissue forms around the knee, causing the knee to compress and stiffen.

Arthrofibrosis can occur after conventional knee surgeries, including:

Low flexibility or strength

Maintaining flexibility throughout your body can help prevent some types of knee stiffness.

To avoid stiffness from tight muscles, add stretching to your daily routine and focus on strength training.

  • Gentle stretching : can improve the ability of the joints to move in their normal range of motion with minimal restriction and tension.
  • Strengthening – Strong muscles around the knee joints can also reduce your susceptibility to injury.

When to contact a healthcare provider

Knee stiffness is common, but it can also be a sign of a serious medical condition. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Decreased sensation
  • Decreased inability to move the knee joint.
  • Decreased or absent pulse in the feet.
  • Cold or bluish feet or toes
  • Hot
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Uncontrollable pain


When you are examined and evaluated for knee stiffness, your healthcare provider will take a history of your symptoms and ask about any recent injuries.

Tests to diagnose the underlying cause of knee stiffness may include:

  • Blood tests to look for signs of arthritis.
  • X-ray to investigate a possible fracture or significant arthritic changes.
  • MRI, which can detect stress fractures or soft tissue injuries, such as ligament or tendon tears.

Watch out

Treatment will depend on the cause of the stiff knee. Conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis will require long-term treatment and follow-up by your healthcare professional.

Whether knee stiffness is the result of chronic illness or injury, there are several ways to eliminate stiff knees.

Self-service strategies

Self-care can be done at home to prevent or relieve stiff knees.

These strategies include:

First, listen to your body. Do not overdo it.

Medical treatment

Depending on your condition, your healthcare provider may also recommend a treatment plan along with recommendations for personal care.

Treatment options include:

Remember, for best results, self-help strategies can be used in conjunction with treatment.

Get the word of drug information

Stiffness in the knee joint can cause anxiety and interfere with daily life. Whether it's an underlying medical condition or injury, your doctors can help you create a treatment plan that works for you and alleviates your symptoms. The earlier you determine the cause of your knee stiffness, the better the outcome. As a preventive measure, it is recommended that you participate in regular self-care activities and choose exercises that maintain knee health and range of motion.

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