Exercises to Help Loosen a Stiff Knee

Arthritis or another medical condition could be the cause of a stiff knee. Overuse of the joints and muscles in your knee can also cause stiffness. Strengthening your hamstrings, quadriceps and other knee-supporting muscles protects your knees from stress and the shock of impact, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Stiff knee exercises and stretching your muscles improves flexibility and mobility.

Stretch your hamstrings to help loosen a stiff knee. Credit: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages

Read more: Tendons in the Back of the Knee

1. Straight Leg Lift

Keep your abs tight — as if you are pulling your belly button toward your spine — while performing straight leg lifts as part of your stiff knee exercises.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your right leg straight and your left leg bent at the knee with your foot flat on the floor. Slowly lift your right leg about a foot off the floor while tightening your thigh muscles.

Hold the position for two to three seconds, then lower back down. Repeat 10 times on each leg, working up to three sets in a row.

2. Quadriceps Stretch

Perform the quadriceps stretch to improve flexibility for flexion, or bending.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand and hold onto the back of a chair or a wall for balance. Lift one foot, grab your ankle and bring the heel toward your buttocks.

You should feel the pull in your quadriceps muscle in the front of your thigh. Keep your knees together and hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat three times on each leg.

3. Wall Squats

Stand with your back against the wall and spread your feet about shoulder-width apart. Perform a squat by bending your knees to lower your body slowly; keep your back against the wall.

Once your knees are bent at a 30-degree angle, hold the position for a count of five to 10 and slowly raise yourself to starting position. Don't perform squats if they cause knee pain.

Read more: How to Get Stronger Knee Joints

4. Hamstring Stretch

The hamstrings in the back of your knee are often tight, which can make it difficult to fully straighten your knee.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your back straight and tall. Straighten your legs out in front of you and relax your feet. Place your hands palms-down on the floor and slide them toward your ankles. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each leg.

You should feel the pull in your hamstring muscles along the back of your thighs and notice the stretch behind your knees. Stop sliding your hands once you feel the stretch in your muscles. Avoid arching your back or locking your knees.

5. Aquatic Kicks

Perform this exercise in the pool to take advantage of the buoyancy of water, which relieves stress on your joints.

HOW TO DO IT: Hold onto the side of the pool and allow your legs to float. Gently kick your legs to stretch your hamstrings and quadriceps. The kicks work your muscles and flex your knee joints in the same way as leg lifts and squats, but without the added tension of gravity.

Warm Up First

Perform a low-impact activity, such as walking, to warm up your muscles for five to 10 minutes before exercising. Consult your doctor about pain or stiffness before performing knee exercises. Pain or stiffness that does not improve could signal a medical condition that needs more aggressive therapy.

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