Hurting knees after exercise

Knee pain and stiffness can affect almost any activity you enjoy, from running a marathon to a garden walk on the weekend. Learn more about hurting knees and how to prevent it.

Both young athletes and experienced athletes can experience symptoms. Proper treatment often depends on the underlying cause. Finding where the pain starts and when your knees hurt can help your doctor prescribe the best treatment for you.

Knee anatomy

The knee joint involves the lower femur, femur, the upper end of the tibia, or tibia, and the approximately triangular patella, or patella, that slides into a groove in the femur. Ligaments and tendons hold the legs in place. The thigh muscles give strength to the knees, and a smooth membrane covers the other inner surfaces. This lining, the synovial membrane, secretes fluid that helps the knees’ structures slide easily over each other during movement. Exercise can cause pain when these structures do not function normally due to injury, illness, overconsumption, or aging.

Causes of hurting knees

Injured tendons or ligaments, arthritis, and infection can cause pain and stiffness in the knees after exercise. For example, bursitis and arthritis often cause pain in the front of the knee. When your symptoms come from the sides of the knee, your doctor may suspect damaged ligaments. Injuries like these often occur during sports that require you to swing fast, such as tennis or basketball. If discomfort and stiffness in the knee appear to worsen as you get older and your entire knee seems to be affected a few hours after exercise, osteoarthritis may be the cause.


Therapies for treating knee pain and stiffness are often necessary. If your doctor suspects overconsumption, he may suggest that you switch from running to cycling or swimming. Ligamentous injuries require complete rest for a long time. However, if the damage is severe, you may eventually need surgery. Strength and stretching exercises for the thighs, quadriceps, and hamstrings help protect the knee joints. If you are overweight, weight loss can help you avoid knee replacement surgery.


An adolescent’s imbalance in muscle strength compared to flexibility can increase the risk of knee injury or inflammation from overconsumption. They recommend combining general strength, stretching, and conditioning programs with sports to prevent injuries. Sports with high loads may require extra training to protect your knees. For example, landing with the knees bent or using the hip joints to crouch and move sideways will take the pressure off the ligaments in the knees.

Knee pain and stiffness respond well to home treatments that include rest, changing your exercise routines, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. See your GP if you develop severe knee pain that prevents you from carrying weight, see an obvious deformity in the knee, or notice significant swelling. Exacerbation of pain, fever, heat, and redness in the knee joint requires immediate medical attention, as these symptoms may indicate infection.

Related articles:

Best recovery after running

Hamstring recovery exercise


About the author


Add comment