Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are common causes of knee stiffness, along with tendonitis and bursitis. These conditions, as well as knee injuries, are caused by inflammation of the knee joint. The first step in reducing pain and preventing further damage is eliminating inflammation. Inflammation causes damage to the joint, and this damage causes more inflammation.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used to decrease inflammation of the knee and eliminate pain. These drugs are not without side effects, and they may not be able to control your pain and inflammation if it is severe. Ask your doctor for a prescription-strength NSAID if over-the-counter products are not controlling your pain. The doctor may recommend other treatments for your inflammation if these medications are not helping. Analgesics such as acetaminophen may be able to ease the pain of inflammation. These medications will not reduce your inflammation, but they may get you to the point where physical therapy is possible.
Elevation and Ice
Ice is one of the simplest remedies for inflammation. Place an ice pack on the affected knee for about 20 minutes while keeping the leg elevated. Elevation helps a sore, stiff knee by allowing built-up fluids to flow out of the area. Combined with the ice pack, it can reduce inflammation enough to get your knee moving again.
Physical therapy may be the last thing on your mind, but the activity could help relieve your pain. If the pain is acute, wait until it subsides before engaging in physical therapy. Your knee exercise program will also strengthen the muscles in the thigh and hamstring that support the knee joint. Increasing your muscle strength in these areas helps take some of the pressure off the knee joint. Start slowly and work on range of motion. Exercises that improve range of motion include those that hyperextend the knee. Sit with your leg straight in front of you and your foot propped on a cushion or pillow. Use the foot to extend the knee by relaxing and pointing the toes upward. Discuss exercise with your doctor before beginning any program. Walking and using the knee may relieve stiffness and inflammation. The doctor will tell you what you can safely do.