Stiff Knee: Causes and Remedies

Similar to the god Atlas in Greek mythology, the job of the knee joint is to handle a ton of weight. As a weight bearer, the knee is subject to different types of injuries like athletic overuse and arthritic. Learn more about the causes and the home remedies can help you relieve the symptom.

Causes of Stiff Knee

1. Injury

If you have experienced a recent injury to your knee, such as a sprain, a tear in your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), a fracture to the knee bone, or any other type,you may be suffering from a stiff knee. Some knee injuries will cause your knee muscle to swell up, which makes it difficult for you to bend or straighten your knee.

2. Overuse

If you have aching knees, you may be suffering from tendonitis, which is usually caused when you overuse your knee. Typically, athletes and people who tend to jump a lot will suffer from pain in their tendons due to the frequent use of their knees during fierce games (i.e. basketball, track and field, soccer, etc.).

3. Arthritis

Arthritis is a common factor with people who are suffering from stiff knees. Listed below are different types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is also referred to as degenerative arthritis. This occurs with the overuse of the knee, as well as aging.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is the most debilitating form of arthritis and is caused when the soft tissue lining of the joints are inflamed. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that usually comes and goes in waves.

  • Gout

Although gout generally affects the big toe, it is also common with stiff knees. Gout occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the joint of the knee.

  • Pseudo-Gout

Don’t be fooled by its name.This is not necessarily gout. Pseudo-gout occurs when there are calcium crystals that develop in the joint.

  • Septic Arthritis

When your knee joint becomes infected, swollen, or in seemingly constant pain and is accompanied by a fever, then you may want to get checked out for septic arthritis.

Due to the joint's complex array of bones, muscle, cartilage and ligaments, stiffness can be an indication of other situations arising like vascular and cystic conditions or even tumors. If you are experiencing any abnormal knee stiffness or discomfort, you need to see a medical professional right away.

Home Remedies for a Stiff Knee

1. RICE Therapy

If you have recently injured your knee, then home remedies may work for you. If you remember what the acronym “RICE” stands for (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), you should have no trouble healing strains or sprains. First you will need to stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing the pain in your knee. Secondly, you will need to apply a cold compress or bag of ice to the knee. The third step is to wrap your knee with a compression bandage to prevent any swelling, but not too tight so you do not cut off your circulation. Lastly, you will need to keep your knee elevated when lying down by placing a pillow under your knee.

2. Natural Remedies

  • Turmeric and Ginger Tea

Both turmeric and ginger spices are anti-inflammatory, so any inflammation that is occurring in your knee will cease or be toned down when you drink some tea with these two ingredients. You can also take turmeric and ginger capsules.

  • Epsom Salt

The reason why Epsom salt can be so helpful when you are suffering from stiff or aching knees is that it contains a ton of magnesium. Magnesium is a great vitamin supplement to help with joint and bone health. If you add about three cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath, you should not only see the swelling start to go down (if there is any) but feel the pain slip away as well.

  • Cod Liver Oil

Doctors have done their researches and have stated that a small amount of cod liver oil daily helps prevent cartilage from breaking down, specifically in the knees. Since the disintegration of cartilage is one of the major symptoms of osteoarthritis, many doctors will suggest that you take some cod liver oil supplements in order to relieve the pain and to prevent any more damage to your knees in the future.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Many people will be surprised to learn that the common cooking ingredient is also useful to stop your knee from aching when you take about two or three spoonful every day. However, since it is high in fat, make sure that you give upmost unhealthy and fatty foods to offset the fattiness in the extra virgin olive oil.    

3. Exercises

  • There are many great exercises that you can do if you are suffering from tight and aching knees. One exercise is the straight leg lift: you lie on your back with the leg that is not hurt on the floor and the leg that is hurt straightened out.
  • Another exercise is wall squats: stand with your back against the wall and then pretend that you are sitting down.
  • A tip for safety is that you either walk or warm up your muscles with another low impact activity for about five to ten minutes before doing any exercises above.
  • Make sure that you are able to perform these (and any other) exercises without damaging your knee(s).

Here is a simple technique that might help you solute your knee stiffness:

Over the Counter Medicines for Stiff Knees

You may want to try out some over-the-counter medicines before seeking help from your doctor. Acetaminophen is an aspirin-free pain reliever that helps in the reduction of pain, but has little effect on inflammation. There is another type of oral medications that are classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). These drugs help reduce both pain and the joint swelling. However, if you take too many, you may end up having some stomach pain, so be careful.

When to See a Doctor

Many people want to try some home remedies or over-the-counter medication before scheduling an appointment with their doctors. However, make sure to call your doctor as soon as possible if you:

  • Cannot handle major weight that is placed on your knee.
  • Have prominent swelling.
  • Are unable to properly extend or flex your knee muscles.
  • Notice any deformities.
  • Have a fever that accompanies any red coloring of your knee.
  • Cannot feel anything from your knee down or up.
  • Are bleeding severely. 
  • Are in continuous and unbearable pain.