When there is pain or stiffness at the knee it is rarely because there is an issue directly at the knee; there a few exceptions to this theory like an ACL tear or meniscal tear. However when these injuries occur it is more of sharp pain that you can trace back to a specific incident. The knee’s main plane of movement is flexion and extension with some slight rotational elements. In addition, due to the nature of the knee joint its job is to be a stable joint for the mobile hip and ankle joints above and below it. However in most people the hip and ankle joints have become more immobile over the course of their lives. This causes the knee to take on the job of being more mobile to accommodate this change in the system. When the knee takes on this role it may lead to the pain and stiffness that you are experiencing.
On top of the knee taking on a more mobile role in the system when the ankle and the hip have decreased mobility the knee may not be going through its full range of motion. When the knee is moving through a limited range of motion it is not getting the lubrication and movement that it needs to thrive. Therefore we want to focus on getting mobility back into the hip and ankle vs focusing on the actual “knee pain”. Try the drills below to help decrease your pain and stiffness.
Increase your hip mobility
Increase your ankle mobility
Improve posterior chain activation
In summary, your knee pain may coming from decreased mobility above and below the joint. Therefore direct treatment to the knee may not be effective. The exception to this is if there is an acute injury to the structures of the knee. However once the initial injury is treated is always a good idea to look at the joint above and below to ensure they are not contributing the risk of injury.