Pain When Kneeling On Knee

Do You Get Pain When Kneeling On Your Knee?

Many people with knee arthritis get pain when kneeling on their knee.
Watch the video to learn how to relieve knee pain when kneeling down.

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What Causes Pain When Kneeling On Knee?

Pain When Kneeling On Kneecap?

Many people think that knee pain when kneeling is caused by the direct pressure of kneeling on your kneecap.

However, it's rare that you actually kneel on your kneecap.

Most of the time, when you're kneeling, the pressure is on your tibial tuberosity, a bump of bone where the patellar tendon attaches to the lower leg bone (tibia).

patellar tendon pain when kneeling on knee

Patellar Tendon Pain When Kneeling On A Hard Surface

If you only have pain when kneeling on a hard surface, but a softer surface like a bed or a rug isn't so bad, you may have patellar tendon pain.

The kneecap sits inside of the patellar tendon, and when you kneel, you put direct pressure attachment of the patellar tendon on the tibial tuberosity.

If you put a pillow under your knee when kneeling or use thick volleyball kneepads, that may help relieve patellar tendon pain when kneeling on a hard surface.

Kneecap Pain When Kneeling Down

Your kneecap sits inside the tendon of your quadriceps muscle.  The upper part of this tendon is called the "quadriceps tendon".  The lower part is called the "patellar tendon" as noted above.

Although you don't kneel directly on your kneecap, you DO stretch your patellar tendon across the knee joint when kneeling.

This in turn compresses the back of the kneecap (patella) against the thigh bone (femur), especially if your quadriceps muscles aren't flexible enough

There is cartilage on the back of the kneecap as well as the end of the femur.  When you have knee arthritis, or cartilage loss, the compression of the kneecap on the femur can create pain on front of the knee known as patellofemoral pain.

Can You Kneel After Knee Replacement?

Yes, you can kneel after a knee replacement.

Now, you shouldn't kneel the day after a knee replacement, or even a few weeks after a knee replacement.

Until your surgical incision is fully closed, you want to avoid exposing your knee to any germs that may cause an infection.

However, 6-12 weeks after a knee replacement, after everything has healed, your artificial knee joint shoulder be stable enough to kneel on.  Kneeling won't damage your knee replacement at this point.

You might still have pain when kneeling on your knee after a knee replacement

When you have a knee replacement, the surgeon usually replaces the joint surfaces of the tibia (lower leg bone) and the femur (thigh bone).

However, they usually do NOT replace the kneecap.

That means if you have arthritis behind your kneecap, you may still have pain kneeling on your knee even after a knee replacement.

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Other Causes Of Pain When Kneeling On Knee

Pain When Kneeling On Outside Of Knee

If you get pain when kneeling in the outside of your knee or the back of the knee this can be cause by:

  1. A Meniscus tear
  2. Knee Arthritis
  3. A fibular head joint dysfunction

What's A Fibular Head Joint Dysfunction?

fibular head pain when kneeling on outside of knee

  1. What's a fibular head?
    The fibula is a small bone that runs down the outside of your lower leg.  Your tibia bears 5/6 of your weight while standing, while the fibular only bears 1/6 of your weight.  The bottom of the fibula joins with the tibia at the ankle joint.  The top part of the fibula (the fibular head) joins with the tibia on the outside of the knee.
  2. What's a joint dysfunction?
    A joint dysfunction is where a joint doesn't move properly, which can cause pain and stiffness.   In the case of the fibular head, when that joint is stiff or stuck, it can cause pain on the back or outside of the knee when the knee is bent all the way... such as when kneeling.

How To Stop Pain When Kneeling On Your Knee

The best way to avoid pain when kneeling on your knee is to avoid kneeling when you don't have to.

If you're gardening, sit on a garden stool rather than kneel down.

If you're scrubbing the floor, use a mop.  That's what they're made for.  (I know, it doesn't get as squeaky clean as when you get down and scrub it by hand, but your knees will thank you).

If you're playing on the floor with your kids or grandkids, opt for sitting on your bottom on the floor or sitting on a footstool rather than kneeling.

But sometimes you have to kneel

If you have to kneel, use padding as much as possible.  Some options include:

  1. A gardening pad
  2. Volleyball knee pads
  3. A pillow

Exercises To Relieve Pain When Kneeling On Knees

As mentioned previously, your kneecap is inside the the tendon of your quadriceps muscles.  Therefore, if your quadriceps are stiff, this creates more pain when bending your knee because the back of the kneecap (patella) gets compressed against the thigh bone (femur).

Stretching your quadriceps can help relieve knee pain when kneeling down

There are many ways to stretch your quadriceps.  However, for almost any activity, the exercise that's most effective is the one that most closely simulates the activity.

For example, if you want to be able to walk without knee pain, walking is one of the best exercises.  You may need a cane or a walker at first if walking is really painful or your hip muscles aren't strong enough to walk without a device. However, over time your muscles will get stronger and you'll be able to walk more comfortably.

Similarly, stretching your quads while kneeling can help relieve pain when kneeling on your knees

Now that sound's strange, doesn't it?

If you have pain while kneeling, why would you want to kneel while stretching?

Well, if you only have pain when kneeling on a hard surface, you can stretch while kneeling on a pillow, a soft rug, or even on a bed.

Furthermore, if you don't sit all the way back on your heels when kneeling, your knees don't bend as much. Therefore, you don't get as much compression behind your kneecap when kneeling.

Use these tips to stretch your quads when kneeling

  1. Kneel on hands and knees on a soft rug, bed, or with a pillow under your knees.
  2. Rock back toward your heels gently, only as far as you can without pain
  3. Hold a few seconds and rock back forward to the start position
  4. Repeat for 2 minutes.

If your knees are less irritable, you may be able to hold the stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute straight and only do 2-4 reps.

If your knees are a little more painful, you may only want to hold 2-3 seconds and do more reps (around 50 reps).

As long as you're getting about 2 minutes of stretching in consistently, your flexibility will improve over time.  As you improve, you'll be able to rock back farther and/or hold longer. Ultimately, this will result in less pain when kneeling on your knees.

See the video above for a more detailed explanation of how to do this.

Modification for pain when kneeling on the outside of your knee

As noted above, a fibular head joint dysfunction can cause pain on back or outside of your knee when kneeling.

If you place a rolled up towel behind your knee when kneeling, this helps keep the fibular head from moving backward as you rock back.

What if I have pain kneeling on my knees when doing this exercise?

If you can't even kneel on a soft surface, there are several different modifications of a quadriceps stretch that you can use:

  1. Put your sore foot up on a chair and then rock forward and backward with your foot on the chair instead of kneeling on your knee.  Use a towel behind your knee for pain in the back or outside of your knee.
  2. Sit on a chair with your leg hanging off the side of the chair.

The video above shows both of these modifications.

Additionally, you can find other stretches for your quadriceps and hip flexor muscles in our post "4 Different Hip Flexor Stretches For Back Pain & Sciatica"

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