Two stretches can help knees bend with less stiffness and pain

Stiff Knee Pain When Bending

Your knee needs to bend to do many daily activities, including walking and sitting down. However, tightness in the leg muscles can cause the knee to feel stiff or painful. Even tightness in the hip flexors or glutes can lead to these symptoms in your knee. Physical therapists can show you many therapeutic exercises that can help reduce stiffness and pain in your knee and allow you to bend it more easily. Here are two of the exercises commonly used to treat knee stiffness and pain: 

1.   Figure four stretch

There is a long piece of connective tissue called the iliotibial (IT) band that runs from the buttock and hip and crosses the outside of your knee. The IT band is attached to muscles like the gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae in the butt and hip, respectively, and tightness in these muscles can pull on the IT band. In turn, increased IT band tension can cause stiffness and pain when bending the knee. The figure four stretch is an exercise that can help reduce tension in muscles the IT band is connected to, which can help your knee symptoms. 

How to perform the figure four stretch

  • Lie down on your back on the floor or on a bed. Your legs should be straight out in front of you with your toes pointed toward the ceiling. 
  • Slide the unaffected leg backward so that the foot is flat on the floor and the knee is slightly bent. 
  • Lift the affected leg, and place your ankle on the unaffected knee. 
  • Slowly lift the unaffected leg toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the hip and butt on the affected side. You can wrap your hands around the back of the leg to help pull it up. 
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, and repeat the steps until you’ve done the stretch three to five times.


2. Standing calf stretch

Tight calf muscles could be another reason you’re feeling stiffness and pain in your knees when bending them. The calf muscles are connected to the back of the knee by tendons, and tightness in them can pull the knee to the side. This misalignment can easily lead to stiffness and pain, which can be countered with the standing calf stretch. 

How to perform the standing calf stretch

  • Start by placing both feet on the bottom step of a staircase. 
  • Move your feet so that your heels are hanging over the edge of the step. 
  • Allow your heels to drop slowly toward the ground until you feel a stretch in your calves. You can hold on to the railing with one hand if you feel unstable. 
  • Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and then return to the starting position. 
  • For best results, continue to repeat these steps until you’ve stretched the calf muscles three to five times. 

Stiffness and pain when bending the knee can be treated at Advent Physical Therapy

Pain and stiffness when bending your knees don’t have to be long-term issues if you get the right help. Advent Physical Therapy has 14 clinics in West Michigan that can help you treat these symptoms. At our clinics, we offer complimentary screenings that are designed to reveal the cause of your symptoms. Our team can then build you a personalized treatment plan that’s intended to target both the root cause and symptoms, and this plan can contain beneficial therapy methods such as: 


Are you ready to start getting our help with a treatment plan that can reduce pain and stiffness when bending your knees? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.