Consider this, you switch on the TV and sit to watch a movie being telecast on your favorite channel. For over two hours, you sit in front of the TV and enjoy the movie. After turning off the TV, you decide to get back to your mundane chores. Just a few steps and you realize that walking seems rather difficult. The reason? The knee has become stiff, causing pain. Stiff knee after sitting for long periods of time is a debilitating condition and indicates the onset of joint problems such as arthritis. Stiffness in knees may also be experienced after sitting cross-legged just for a few minutes.
A point to note that stiff knee does not necessarily mean that the knees are painful. Many times, the stiffness lasts only for a few minutes, thereby allowing you to resume your day-to-day activities. However, if this is happening everyday, it should not be taken lightly and calls for medical intervention.
As we all know, the joint is a place where two different bones are connected to each other. The ends of the bones are coated with a firm elastic tissue known as the cartilage. Thus, one can say that the cartilage is located at the joint itself. Anatomy of the knee has revealed that the four bones primarily make the knee joint. With 4 bones forming the knee joint, no wonder it is considered the largest joint.
Although a sitting position is relaxing and gives comfort, for some, getting up after sitting can be a cause of great discomfort due to stiff joints. What could be the reason? It is discussed below:
Joint pain and stiffness in the knee after sitting for a considerable amount of time could mean that the person is suffering from osteoarthritis. This is a joint problem in which the cartilage covering the bone ends gets destroyed. As a result, the bones directly come in contact and rub against each other during movement, which can be quite painful. However, this condition does not occur suddenly and is the result of slow progressive deterioration of the cartilage and subsequently the joints. No wonder, this joint disease is diagnosed in the elderly. It is estimated that over 10 million population in the United States is suffering from knee osteoarthritis. Stiffness after sitting, pain while walking, and restricted movement of the knee, are some of the most common complaints reported in knee osteoarthritis.
The knee getting stiff after sitting can also be due to chondromalacia patellae. This condition typically affects the cartilage situated just below the kneecap (patella). The term chondromalacia patellae refers to injury to this cartilage, making it unfit for exertion. This happens because the cartilage lying underneath the kneecap becomes soft and is therefore prone to damage. This cartilage actually prevents the kneecap from rubbing against the lower part of the thigh bone. But in case, the kneecap is not aligned properly with respect to the thigh bone, the cartilage is likely to get damaged. This is because as the kneecap is not in a proper position, it scrapes against the lower end of the thigh bone frequently, despite presence of the cartilage. This rubbing action softens and damages the cartilage, and causes inflammation of the joint.
Athletes and sports person put a lot of strain on the kneecap during activities like running, soccer, and jumping, and hence have increased risk of developing chondromalacia patellae. Thus, excessive rigorous activity on a daily basis may cause erosion of the cartilage beneath the kneecap, eventually leading to chronic knee pain and stiff knee after sitting. People who had earlier damaged their kneecap during an accident are also susceptible to this condition.
Well, the treatment plan to be adopted will depend on the underlying cause. In order to diagnose the knee problem, taking a MRI scan or doing arthroscopy of the affected joint is often recommended. These tests provide images that give a clear idea about the condition of the joints. Depending upon the diagnosis of the underlying condition, remedies that will be prescribed are given below:
Whether it is knee arthritis or chondromalacia patella, with proper medications, the condition can be managed effectively, and one can still lead an active normal life, in spite of having knee problems. Pain medications like acetaminophen and the use of non steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines is helpful to keep the discomfort under control. Application of heat and ice therapy is yet another alternative for knee pain reduction. If nothing works, correcting the knee problem with surgical procedures like knee replacement or realigning the kneecap might be recommended to resolve the issue.
Taking glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements is yet another option to treat osteoarthritis. This alternative remedy supports cartilage growth and provides flexibility to the cartilage. On the other hand, people suffering from chondromalacia patella should not use knee sleeves or ACE bandages as they exert compression force on the knee cap. This does not help in any way to realign the kneecap.
Be it chondromalacia patella or knee osteoarthritis, one simply has to stay away from activities like running that put excessive stress on the knees. Rigorous workout routines have also to be avoided as it can worsen the pain and further dislocate the kneecap. The key is to do exercises that strengthen the muscles responsible for keeping the kneecap in the right alignment. In case of osteoarthritis, the aim is to strengthen the muscles that are around the affected joint. This in turn, can bring stability to the joint affected with osteoarthritis. This can be achieved by doing exercises like walking, bicycling and swimming. Do not overexert yourself as it may worsen your osteoarthritis pain. However, before beginning any exercise routine, contact your physical therapist to know about specific exercises that may improve the stability of the joint and the alignment of the kneecap.