Why Does My Knee Feel Tight? Potential Causes Of Knee Discomfort

The question we’re here to answer today, one that you were probably asking yourself lately (if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here reading this, would you) is:

Why does my knee feel tight? 



Of course, the answer isn’t simple. Numerous underlying causes are to blame for an uncomfortable condition such as this one. Imagine, as someone who likes running, not being able to bend your knee correctly. Torture, right?

Since finding the cause is the first, vital step to getting better, today I’m going to focus on all the whys of knee tightness, so keep on reading!

Symptoms That Often Accompany Knee Tightness


When you're dealing with knee tightness, it's not uncommon to experience distinct related symptoms. It seems like lots of people that reported knee tightness during a doctor's appointment, listed having some of the following symptoms, as well:

  • Knee Pain: 93% of people who described a sensation of tightness in one of their knees, also complained that pain in the same area often follows. Now, while the feeling may differ from person to person – it can be sharp, throbbing, dull, or it may resemble pressure more than anything, and it can be located inside, or outside of the knee – one thing's for sure: It's the single most common reported knee-related issue.
  • Swelling Around The Knee Area: 59% of people have also noticed their knee joint being swollen, in addition to the tightness they're feeling. The swelling is sometimes located inside the knee, but it can also involve the surrounding tissue.
  • Feeling Of Tightness Or Stiffness In The Hip: In 26% of reported cases, it seems like people experienced the same feeling of tightness in their hip, as well as their knee. Either it manifests as the inability to move your hips to a healthy degree (a decreased level of movement), or it arises when you're active (e.g., walking, running).

What Might Be Causing The Tightness In Your Knee: Two Major Reasons

It goes without saying that the feeling of tightness in your knee may be caused by many reasons. That doesn't mean that there's no way of categorizing them, though. No matter how long the list gets, the truth is, you can attribute the majority of those recognized causes for knee tightness to one of the categories listed below.

Now, before we dive into the world of possible causes, I'd like to take a moment to give you a piece of advice. As someone who's leading a very active lifestyle (as I believe most of my readers do), you should probably do a little research on the topic of the best knee sleeve for running.


As A Result Of An Injury

I’ve said it many times before, and I don’t mind saying it again:

While running is an excellent exercise to keep you in top shape, as well as health, it’s also kind of notorious for having a huge impact on your joints. It’s no surprise, then, that various types of injuries can occur.

I’ve previously talked about the impact running may have to your Achilles tendon (check out my article on the best walking shoes for Achilles tendonitis, while you’re at it), and your feet in general, but today I want to focus on the knees.


Meniscus Tear

Probably the most common knee injury, a meniscus tear, happens as a result of sudden movements (such as twisting or turning) and is often observed in those who play sports. That makes us, avid runners, pretty strong candidates for such an injury, don't you think?

So, if you recently had a sprain, and possibly damaged the meniscus (one of two present in each knee) along the way, it's entirely possible that the tightness you're experiencing is a result of a torn meniscus. If this C-shaped, rubbery disc suddenly stops being able to do its job – which is to provide cushioning and stability – your knee won't be able to work correctly, either.


An injury is an injury, and no matter how physically fit you are, an injured knee is going to take you out of action for the time being. You're going to have to sit this one out

Of course, that doesn't mean there's nothing you can't do about it – there are plenty of knee stability exercises you could try.

Knee Tendonitis


While it's deemed the most common, a meniscus tear isn't the only type of injury that could leave you wondering:

Why does my knee feel tight?

Another reason behind the tightness – or stiffness, whatever you like to call it – could be a tear in your patellar tendon, a firm band of tissue that connects your kneecap (or patella) to the top of your tibia. Once it's damaged in such a way, patellar tendon isn't capable of doing its job anymore, so don't be surprised if you're suddenly not able to straighten your leg as quickly as you used to before the injury.

It's strange to see yourself not being able to perform something as simple as straightening your leg, huh?

Anyway, „jumper's knee," another way of referring to knee tendonitis, could be the reason why your knee feels so tight lately, especially during activities that require lots of knee movement, such as squatting, kneeling, climbing stairs, and the like.



Given the fact that knee tendonitis will have a drastic impact on the range of movements you're able to perform, it's understandable if you're in a hurry to recover and go back to being your old, active self. And the fact that your knee is one of the leading joints in your body doesn't help the case, either.

But what can you do about it?

The primary goal is to improve your flexibility – not being able to climb the stairs comfortably is no fun, at all. That's why knee tendonitis exercises are your best bet. I'm not going to share details at this point, as it's not the focus of this article, but I'm going to write more on the subject shortly, so be sure to come back, and check it out!


Due To An Underlying Medical Condition

Again, various underlying conditions can lead to inflammation. As a result, you can end up with a knee that feels uncomfortably tight.

Knee Osteoarthritis

Let's talk about a relatively common medical condition often brushed off as one of those things that inevitably happen as you age: knee osteoarthritis.

What many people don't seem to understand is the „wear and tear" aspect of the condition. As a runner, you're exposing your entire body – joints included – to a high level of physical activity. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that years down the line, this „overuse" of the knees can potentially cause the cartilage to break down enough to generate a certain amount of discomfort, often described as the feeling of tightness in the knee.


How do you know if this is the cause of your problem?

One sure way to recognize knee tightness due to osteoarthritis is that it's usually worse in the morning when you've just got out of bed. The same goes for any other prolonged resting periods. Since only one or two joints are typically affected, you'll notice a significant amount of improvement as soon as you start moving around a bit.


One of the best things you can do at this point is to look into knee braces and sleeves, explicitly designed for osteoarthritis-related issues. They're known for their outstanding ability to relieve some – if not all – symptoms commonly seen as a result of this condition.

You'd be surprised what a little weight shifting can accomplish.


Final Thoughts On The Subject: Why Does My Knee Feel Tight?

As you can see, there's more than one answer to that question. Depending on your overall health, age, as well as some other factors, such as recent injuries, it's hard to tell straight away why your knee feels tight.

However, I hope you found what you were looking for today. If you're still not quite sure what might be making your knee to act up the way it does – especially if it never happened before – you should probably consider talking to a medical professional.


I'm considering talking about the possible course of treatment for knee tightness, as well as what you can do to prevent it (exercises and the like) in one of my following articles, so if you're interested in learning more on the topic, stay tuned!

Bella Williams

Hi! I'm Bella. I love running. I write this blog to share everyone about running.

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