Arthritis, tendinitis, muscle injuries, and cartilage injuries are perhaps the most common causes of stiff knees, though other causes do exist. Muscles and tendons, as well as ligaments in the joint, can lead to stiff knees due to injury, overuse, or lack of conditioning. Arthritis can lead to stiffened knees as the cartilage and ligaments of the knee begin to break down and degrade. Most knee problems that lead to stiffness are not very serious conditions, though some issues that lead to stiffness can be quite serious and require further medical attention such as medications, surgery, or physical therapy.
Muscle stiffness can lead to stiffness in the knees, too. The muscles that attach to the bones near the knees can become strained or simply tight from overuse or lack of conditioning. A muscle strain occurs when the fibers that make up the muscle tear slightly, leading to pain. That pain and stiffness can radiate into the knees, and it can also cause stress on other parts of the knee. Icing and rest can help relieve the pain and stiffness, and after a few days, the pain should go away. If the pain and stiffness persist, it may be appropriate to visit a doctor.
Arthritis is a degenerative condition that commonly occurs in people as they age. The cartilage and ligaments in the knee begin to break down, causing the knee to move in ways it would not otherwise bend; tendons can become inflamed, leading to pain and stiff knees. There is no cure for arthritis, but pain management techniques can be used to reduce stiffness and pain. Treatments may include using topical ointments, anti-inflammatory medications, and painkillers, or participating in a regular workout routine and stretching regimen. More serious cases of arthritis may require a partial or complete knee replacement surgery, which can be a painful process with an extended recovery time.
Sometimes the kneecap can become displaced for a variety of reasons, leading to discomfort and stiff knees. Inflammation can cause the kneecap to become misaligned, as can other conditions such as bursitis, damaged cartilage, and direct trauma. A misaligned kneecap can lead to mild to intense pain, or it may simply cause stiff knees and discomfort. A visit to the doctor can help a patient find the best treatment options, as those treatments will change depending on the cause of the knee cap problem as well as the severity of the injury.