Health blog

Can’t bend your knee without pain? Here are five potential reasons why

October 4th, 2023
Five Potential Reasons You Can’t Bend Your Knee Without Pain

Knee pain is a common complaint that can affect anyone. It affects approximately 25% of adults and limits their abilities to perform their normal daily activities. The knee is a joint that is responsible for helping to support the body’s weight, movement and stability. The joint is the meeting point of the femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone) and patella (kneecap). It also is supported by a number of ligaments, cartilage, tendons and muscles. These work together to help make the body’s movements stable and smooth. 

Symptoms of knee pain when bending

Signs and symptoms of knee pain can include:

  • Swelling.
  • Sharp or dull pain. 
  • Stiffness.
  • Redness or warmth to the touch.
  • Instability.
  • Weakness.
  • Popping or crunching noise when bending the knee.
  • Inability to straighten the knee fully. 

Potential causes of knee pain when bending

There are a number of factors that can cause knee pain. However, the most likely culprits behind your knee pain can include:

  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, is a dull pain around the front of the kneecap. This condition can be caused by a number of reasons including: running or walking, kneecap being too high in the joint, weak thigh muscles, tight hamstrings, tight Achilles tendons, injury or overuse. This condition can be diagnosed by a physical exam. Treatments can vary depending on your age, health and pain level.

  • Tendinitis — Tendinitis in the knee is also known as jumper’s knee. It is commonly experienced in athletes in sports that involve a lot of jumping like basketball and volleyball. Because it’s most often caused by overuse due to repeated stress on the tendon, it is important to listen to your body and not play through the pain.

  • Bursitis Knee bursitis is caused by the inflammation of the bursae near the knee joint. Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction and cushion the joints. Knee bursitis most commonly occurs over the kneecap and can limit your mobility. It can be caused by overuse of the knee, bacterial infection, complications from arthritis or frequent pressure on the knees.

  • Osteoarthritis — Knee osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects approximately 250 million people. It is the result of wear and tear causing the loss of cartilage. It is a common ailment in people over the age of 60 and is more common in women than men. While correlated with aging, it is a disease. Pain can range from mild to severe and typically worsens with prolonged activity, especially bending or taking the stairs.

  • Torn ligament or meniscusSprains of the ligaments or injuries to the meniscus can both cause pain in the knee when bending. The ligaments of the knee are the lateral collateral ligament (LCL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). Knee sprains can be caused by the body twisting, blunt force, or awkward landing. The meniscus can become torn when the knee is forcefully twisted or rotated, especially with full body weight on it.

Treatments for knee pain when bending

If your knee pain is lingering or is moderate to severe, your knee may benefit from interventions such as:

  • Physical therapy.
  • Orthotics. 
  • Bracing.
  • Surgery (in severe cases). 

Physical therapy for knee pain when bending

Physical therapy is an effective, noninvasive option for helping knee pain when bending. It can help reduce your pain level and improve your strength. It can also help improve your mobility, which can make it easier for you to move from bent positions or movements. Physical therapy techniques to help your knee pain can include:

  • Manual therapy — Manual therapy is a hands-on treatment that is intended to help reduce pain and improve the range of motion of soft tissue and joints. Manual therapy can be beneficial in helping to treat knee pain from bending motions for conditions like osteoarthritis and patellofemoral pain syndrome.

  • Aquatic therapyAquatic therapy is a great low-impact way to treat knee pain. It can be especially beneficial for older patients with osteoarthritis. Aquatic therapy can help you build strength, relax tense muscles and ease the stiffness in your joints.

  • Therapeutic exercisesTherapeutic exercises and stretches can strengthen the muscles that help to support your knee joint. When you increase the strength of these muscles, it can reduce the stress on your knee and help it move more fluidly. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises and stretches based on your ability and pain tolerance. 

If your pain is due to injury, please note that it can take up to six weeks to recover from a knee injury. If a knee injury is severe enough to require surgery, it can take an additional few weeks up to a year to reach total recovery. Post-surgical rehab is an effective PT option that can give you the best chance of recovering fully. 

Rehab Access can help you ease the knee pain you experience when bending your knee 

Rehab Access can help you overcome the pain you experience in your knee from bending the joint. Our expert physical therapists will design a custom treatment plan around your specific needs and condition. Each treatment plan is designed with your current health and treatment goals in mind. Knee pain doesn’t have to keep interfering with your day-to-day life. 

When you’re ready to see how Rehab Access can help you deal with your knee pain, contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.