Question - Knee Injury and Stiffness After Arthroscopy

by Steven Kembery
(Bath, England)

10 months ago I injured my knee playing football. 5 months later I had an arthroscopy. Unfortunately I am no closer to returning to playing competitive sports because I feel I have lost quite a bit of range and my knee sometimes feels locked - is this normal?

My knee tends to get very stiff after sport (which is light jogging at the moment) and it still feels like I have some fluid on the knee joint (on the outside) - is this normal too? Does it sound like another operation is needed or can I restore to full fitness from the exercises you have detailed from your very helpful website? Its worth noting that at present I have very stiff hamstrings because I never used to stretch them much and this might have had something to do with the injury.

Your advice would be greatly received.

Many Thanks

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Nov 19, 2007
Stiffness is very common...
by: Bart - SII

Stiffness after knee surgery is very common. What kind of surgery did you have. Did they remove part of the meniscus, or did you have articular cartilage damage? How long were you on crutches, and what kind of rehabilitation did you do following surgery? Did you ever regain full motion after surgery? A little more information will help to get a better picture of what might be going on.

Most of the time stiffness after knee surgery is caused by swelling initially, and then either adhesions within the tissues, contractures of the muscles, or a loss of normal arthrokinematic motions.

Scar tissue formation and contractures of the muscles can usually be self treated with range of motion activities and friction massage. Arthrokinematic motions must be restored with joint mobilizations and this is done by a PT or ATC.

Feelings of stiffness after activities may be due to some swelling. If you are having episodes of locking, you may have something else going on inside of your knee.

5 months out from surgery is usually enough time to recover, depending on what was done inside your knee...however, everyone heals differently. Often, it just takes time to regain motion and function. I would encourage you to talk with your physician if you are concerned about your progress.

Great questions!

Nov 30, 2007
question r/t acl reconstruction
by: connie

Hi Steve,

I'm getting ready to do this surgery, so I'm checking out others' experiences with it. Found your blog after I found a scientific report on it, so thought I'd try to share what I learned.

The recovery depends on where the donor ligament came from. Since you're talking about fluid and instability at 10 months I'm wondering if yours came from your hamstring? The report I found talked about the hamstring tendon having to "mature" and that instability was noted between 4 months and 2 years postop. Seems odd it doesn't show in months 0-4 postop, but apparently it doesn't.

I don't know about the "locked" part, except that I've experiences that presurgery from a torn meniscus. Don't know if that helps, or not.

Best of luck with your recovery.

Feb 20, 2008
Update after 9 months post op (Knee)
by: Steven Kembery


Thanks for getting back to me with your comments. I am now 9 months past op and just wanted to give an update, particulary as I am still pretty worried about the rehabilitation of my knee, although I am actually travelling at the moment, so seeing a Doctor or a Physio is a bit difficult.

I can now walk and jog ok, but I have lost a lot of pace due to the fact that my injured leg has lost alot of range. When I try and sprint, friends tell me it is very noticeable that I am carrying this injury. In some ways it does still feel locked.

Should I continue with the range exercises? Will this resolve the problem? And will this get better with time?

Do you think I should go back to the Physio when I return home to the UK, because it doesnt sound right?

Do you think I should have another MRI scan? Its just I don't understand what the restriction is because the operation should have cleared any cartiliage blocking my knee.

Your comments would be gratefully received.

Kind Regards
Steven Kembery

Feb 20, 2008
I would return to your physio
by: Bart - SII

Continuing the range of motion exercises won't hurt anything, but at 9 months out from surgery, you probably have restrictions that cannot be treated with just these exercises.

There could be any number of things causing your restrictions. You could have some scarring around the joint capsule that has tightened the knee down and won't let it move fully. You could have lost some of the normal accessory motions in the knee.(when you bend and extend the femur has to roll and glide on the tibia. If these accessory motions are restricted, it gets locked up)

Time will continue to help - but I would talk to your physio or doctor when you can.

Thanks for your update...keep us posted on how things progress.

Aug 10, 2009
Knee injury and stiffness
by: Anonymous

Like to know if you had just 30 degrees of ROM after post-operative about 9 months what advice do you have for me?

Oct 23, 2009
life after knee arthroscopy
by: Paula

6 weeks ago I had arthroscopic left knee surgery as I tore the meniscus. I am a young 67 and had my right hip totally replaced last November. I recovered great from the hip, went back to walking briskly 4 miles per day and then suddenly while walking down the steps heard a pop and the knee injury. My question is ..I am in much more pain, stiffness, and discomfort especially at night with this supposedly simple arthroscopic knee surgery. What's up? How long with this recovery take? My orthopedic Dr. says I am way ahead of the game. I am very frustrated. I do the daily exercises and have joined a pool and I am back selling houses but after sitting especially feel like I'm at least 100 when I stand up. Help!!!

Jun 08, 2010
Five weeks post-op after meniscus surgery
by: Patti

I'm 57 and suffered a complex tear in my left meniscus. Had surgery 5 weeks ago. I certainly sympathize with everyone who still has pain and stiffness after the surgery. I do fine unless I've sat for a long time. Then the stiffness is so bad that I limp again. Also, after sleeping all night, it takes me about 2 hours each morning to finally get the leg going again so that I can bear full weight on it. Still can't do stairs well, but I'm riding my recumbent bike daily and doing all the therapy exercises. Can finally lock the leg back now which I really had a problem with. Lying on the bed on your stomach and letting your legs hang off and have gravity pull it toward the floor is the best exercise of all. I've really pushed it. My husband says I've tried to go too fast with the rehab, but I figure if you don't push and work through the pain, the longer it will take. Just hope I can do stairs comfortably soon!

Oct 18, 2010
knee stiffness.
by: matthew slack

I had arthroscopic knee surgery on my left knee to re-align my knee cap on the 15th of September. however my knee got infected after surgery and I was re-admitted to hospital for 2 weeks. In those 2 week I had 3 procedures to remove the infection (two of which were done arthroscopic-ally, the 3rd procedure they had to make and incision on the medial side of my knee.
My knee was extremely stiff in my second week of hospital. I have been at home now for 2 weeks, doing the exercises to increase the range of flexion in my knee but it isn't much. It has improved since my second week in hospital but my knee still feels very stiff. The physios reckon my knee should be bending a lot more, but it literally feels like its impossible for my knee to bend any more. can you give me any advice as to why my knee is so stiff still?

Feb 06, 2011
Stiff knee
by: Rachel

i was told by my surgeon that i needed to have a patella realignment op. due to the period of recovery time i asked him to perform an arthroscopy to see if there was anything else he could do. he performed the arthroscopy and tidied up my cartlidge and carried out a partial fat pad removal. i am now 4 weeks post op. swelling in my knee is still quite bad, and i seem to have lost around 80% of the original motion. i am ok straightening my knee but am unable to bend it more or less at all. i went back to see the surgeon who was stumped as to why i havent been able to bend it. he told me this has never happened to him before and has referred me for urgent physio. my knee feels stiff and like it has heavy strapping around it restricting the movement. it is also quite unstable and seems to lock out when i walk. i am hobbling along at the moment and getting quite worried that it will not bend again. any suggestions anyone?

Jun 15, 2011
Muscle pain after arthroscopy
by: Rachel

I had an arthroscopy on my right leg 12 days ago and althought the knee freels reasonably stable and pain free my thigh muscles are very painful. I am hardly sleeping at night because I just cannot get comfortable. Even with Paracetamol and Ibuprofen I am in considerable pain. This pain came on slowly 3-4 days post operatively. The surgeon saw me at day 10 and told my to remove the pressure stockings to see it that helped but it hasn't. I am seeing the physio today for the first time....I just hope she can help. I have done all the normal first stge physio exercises several times a day but now I find the straight leg lift just too painful to do. Has anyone else had experience like this and do you have any suggestions? I would be grateful for advise. As in similar posts, sitting is uncomfortable.

Jun 15, 2011
Arthroscopy Update
by: Rachel

i posted last in Feb when i was 4wks post op. I am now able to bend my knee though do not have full range of movement back 6 months on! i cannot kneel, sit cross legged, run, do squats or lunges. still struggle with stairs and still in pain. so in all the op hasnt helped me at all! back to the consultant in July so will see what he says, though i know he will suggest a lateral release, which i am reluctant to have as i have heard such horror stories!

Aug 06, 2011
4 months post op rt knee arthroscope
by: charlotte


Sep 13, 2011
knee problem
by: Anonymous

Hi my name is Vonda On May 26 2011 I had a Arthroscopy I just recently went to thearpy. And my knee is still very stiff and she feeling inflamed. what should I do I purcahse a tens unit and it really helps. what else can i do.

Sep 27, 2011
Meniscus Repair
by: Michelle

i sure feel better after reading ya'lls comments. i am 8 weeks post repair and still am stiff and feeling as if an invisible band is circulating my knee. what is weird is the more i move it about, the stiffer it gets! i have full ROM luckily but still unable to do individual stair stepping, especially downhill. i never thought it would take this long to be back to normal and feel better reading i am not the only one!

Sep 28, 2011
post op arthroscopy and post 4 wks orthovisc injections
by: charlotte edwards


Jan 07, 2012
( 9 months and waiting to walk without limp NEW
by: kIMBLE

March 09, 2010, my meniscus tore and I underwent meniscus surgery on my left knee with arthritis scrapeing on April 01. The surgeon told me I doubt that you will be back to see me or need therapy.

Nine months later I am limping more . Ten weeks of physical therapy, the therapist told me I would not be back to normal at the close of therapy and suggested walking in water. Just completed 2 months of walking in heated saline pool.

Unable to walk through any kind of store, to go for a walk with the dog, to kneel, squat and even a little walking makes me tired. I go to a massage therapist once a month for trigger point release.

Am returning to the physical therapist for a complete evaluation and therapy again. Really mixed feelings about seeing the surgeon again. What would his suggestion be?--another surgery, a shot into my knee, another xray or mri? Have totally lost faith in this orthopedic surgeon. I should have had the surgeon who operated on his knee to operate on mine.

Feb 25, 2012
Botched operation NEW
by: MJ

I had an arthroscopy in late September last year to repair a torn cartilage in the knee. After 10 weeks of twice weekly physio I still couldn't bend or straighten the knee or walk any distance and was in a lot of pain. I saw the surgeon 3 times after the operation and asked why I was in so much pain. His only answer was that I needed a knee replacment because of the level of arthritis in the knee and gave me a cortisone injection that I didn't want. The pain increased intensely after this and I was mostly housebound. I went to another surgeon for a second opinion and he said knee replacement wasn't needed and booked me in for a second arthroscopy to fix the mess the first surgeon had caused. Two weeks down the track I still can't walk any distance, have the same stiffness in the leg and I'm more frustrated. The intense pain however, is no longer there and there is more movement in the knee. I have more confidence in this new doctor but I'm so fed up with the enforced inactivity and inablity to do much of anything. I have been doing the recommended exercises at home but next week will go back to the physio and will have acupuncture as well. I just want to walk my dogs again. Can't understand how such a seemingly simple operation has caused more pain and damage than the original problem. Surgeon #1 has much to answer for.

May 13, 2012
i had knee scope in jan 5th and still swelling limping and hurts is this normal? and what can i do? NEW
by: Anonymous

knee surgery knee scope jan 5th and here it is may is swelling limping and feels like a toothache is this normal? please is there anything i can do?

May 13, 2012
i had knee scope in jan 5th and still swelling limping and hurts is this normal? and what can i do? NEW
by: Anonymous

knee surgery knee scope jan 5th and here it is may is swelling limping and feels like a toothache is this normal? please is there anything i can do?

Aug 06, 2012
Three weeks after surgery NEW
by: Anonymous

I had knee arthroscopy for torn meniscus and chondromalacia (menisectomy and synovectomy) three weeks ago. While I have most of the motion back in my knee, it still gets stiff at times - especially after sitting for an extended period. Seems like that's par for the course.
I can see a bit of progress each day, though I try not to overdo it.
The key, it seems, is movement.
Here's hoping that with continued exercising the stiffness will slowly go away.

Oct 03, 2012
Knee scopeI NEW
by: Anonymous

I ahd a knee scope five days ago for thicken plica .He also removed some tissueand said the joint looks great. Ok My knee felt like was getting better and the swolling was down. The knee has been hurting and clicking and huting alot. I was walkinmg across the living Room and heard a pop in my knee and the increased pain , stiffness and swolling. I not sure if I should call the Ortho DR or wait.I do have a post oppt on the tenth

Jan 16, 2013
ACl Surgery NEW
by: Anonymous

Three months after ACl surgery and still having alot of stiffness and cracking when bending the knee. Also having problems walking properly. Is this normal and what can be done?

Jan 22, 2013
knee surgery NEW
by: dawn louise

Hi guys I had knee surgery and its no better' ten days later and my knees stiff and getting worse our done the exercises and walked small distances. I had torn cartilage and arthritis scrapeout yet I'm in in more pain than when I started any suggestions please.

Jun 12, 2013
Arthroscopy,waste of time NEW
by: Liz

I had an arthroscopy 6weeks ago to address a torn cartelage.however the discomfort,stiffness and pain I am now suffering is far worse than before the procedure.I have been exercising the joint 3 times a day together with an ice pack for the swelling,which has had little or no effect.Really regret having the procedure

Jun 12, 2013
Arthroscopy,waste of time NEW
by: Liz

I had an arthroscopy 6weeks ago to address a torn cartelage.however the discomfort,stiffness and pain I am now suffering is far worse than before the procedure.I have been exercising the joint 3 times a day together with an ice pack for the swelling,which has had little or no effect.Really regret having the procedure

Mar 23, 2014
knee surgery NEW
by: Anonymous

Had arthoscopy procedure to remove part of torn meniscus 07/17/13 and clean out some debri. All I can say
knee now hurts much more after sitting a while and is very stiff. Was not stiff before surgery
This surgery in many cases is a waste of time
and may be do more damage then good . It is done in many cases to make the doctors richer. Do not get this surgery unless pain in intolerable

Sep 10, 2014
Knee Swelling and Stiffness NEW
by: Anonymous

My daughter (9th Grade) had osteochondritis dissecans surgery about a 2 years ago. She was restricted from physical activity for 6 months. She completed physical therapy and sports therapy. She was released with no limitations, played basket ball last fall as well. She has started playing again at school and I'm noticing a knott (swelling) on her knee and she says it is stiff after working out. Should I be concerned.

Sep 10, 2014
Knee Swelling and Stiffness NEW
by: Cynthia

Hi Steve,

My 14 year old daughter had osteochondritus surgery 2 years ago. She completed physical therapy and worked with a pt as well. She was released with no restriction after 6 months. She went on to play basketball last year and was fine. Last night I noticed she had some swelling in her knee and says her knee gets swollen after basketball practice. Should I be concerned.


Sep 11, 2014
I think so NEW
by: Anonymous

Please,do observe it first and cask her more question after which you may meet your doctor for advise.

Jan 14, 2015
Arthroscopic meniscus surgery NEW
by: Denise

I had surgery 6 weeks ago for a lateral meniscus tear (1/3 of the meniscus was removed and also some loose mushy cartilage that looked like a fuzzy ball)- operation pictures provided by Doctor.
The injury happened in early June 2014 and I had increasing stiffness and nerve pain/numbness involving the entire leg prior to surgery for 6 months. I could not bend the knee much and sitting was painful. After surgery on Dec 4 there was a lot of swelling for 4 or 5 weeks and sharp stabbing pain would come on suddenly disturbing my sleep. The muscles all along my leg have been tight in a spasm. I massaged the knots in the muscles myself as best I could reach. I was told to make sure I could straighten the knee and to weight bear/walk as tolerated. The leg often feels like its in a vise/tight squeeze with numbness and throbbing pain from hip to foot but over time the muscle spasms are relaxing as I work at stretching and bending. The swelling is down quite a bit and I'm massaging the leg and knee during the night and use different shape/size pillows to help get comfortable and lay on my sides. When the pain gets intense, I breathe thru it but its important to keep moving and straightening/bending a little at a time. Be brave and keep working at it even when the pain is bad and moving is slow and don't be afraid to do self-massage. There are good days and bad days when it seems it's gotten worse, but I keep doing exercise. Standing or sitting for long periods makes the swelling/vise feeling/numbness come on strong. I have to work at getting the leg to move. I started PT once a week at the end of Dec 2014 at 4 weeks post-op. At the start I could barely bend 90 degrees, two weeks later 106 degrees, so progress is slow. Walking without pain and with a normal gait has taken 6 weeks with knee popping occasionally. I'm starting to kneel on my knee bent at 90 degrees and trying to stretch it by slowly lowering on it. Yes, it hurts and feels like things are tearing inside. The muscles on thigh (inside and out) and along the outside of shin below the knee are still in spasm but they are starting to relax with massage and mindfulness to overcome the guarding that has been habit for 7 months. Am learning to trust using the leg again (slowly going down stairs with it while holding on to the rail)and contracting & relaxing muscles that feel weak. I just turned 60 and had been physically active before injury. That all came to a screeching halt in June 2014. I'm determined to get back to an active lifestyle again. Doctor told me not to drive yet and no bathing/soaking leg in water. Maybe when I go back to see him the end of January I will have made enough progress to drive stick shift again. I just want to encourage others as it has been so hard, depressing and disheartening going thru this. I relate to many of the comments made and thank you all for sharing your story. Taking warm showers feels good and also doing alternating 3 minutes warm/1 minute cold shower spray over the leg. Elevate the leg during the night and as often as necessary during the day to help relieve swelling and use ice after doing lots of exercise/stretches. If all you can do is sit in a rocker and rock knee back and forth, do it. You'll be doing more each time. The pain will be there when you get up to walk and it takes forever to straighten the leg again - just keep at it. I've felt like an old granny using a walker and a cane but now can walk slowly without them, sometimes using furniture or walls for security/balance. Let's keep up our courage and determination and pray for each other. God bless.

Jan 28, 2015
knee arthroscopy NEW
by: Marcus

Had a left knee arthroscopy a week ago for a small medial meniscus tear I use to have knocking and the knee clicking back into position and moderate pain. Well after the operation my knee locks and catches which is extremely painful and my condition is so much worse. I am devastated I feel like a cripple. Don't have this operation useless you can't love with your symptoms. Any advice would be appreciated

Apr 23, 2015
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Jul 25, 2015
The Happy Triad ! NEW
by: Skip

I'm not unlike many of you who have commented on this blog. I have been working as a professional caddie, and in April of 2015 began to feel discomfort in my left leg to include the knee. Several trips to the Orthopedic surgeon, draining and cortisone injections kept me going for a good month. At the end of May it became quite apparent that I was dragging my left leg walking on the golf course, and pleaded with my Orthopedic doctor that it was time for an MRI. Hence, a Grade 2 MCL sprain, particle tear of the ACL and a bucket handle tear of the medial meniscus back to the horn. Surgery on June 26th 2015 and I have been compliant with post operative P/T and home exercises. unfortunately, I have bi-lateral leg stiffness, and getting out of bed takes courage. I am taking the stairs with moderate discomfort, and can walk short distances, however I am 4 weeks out and the stiffness in both legs persists. I didn't have stiffness in both legs prior to surgery, although I am speculating that I have been compensating for so long with my right leg that both legs are now a problem. I will continue to update as things move forward, and I would like to thank those who post and share their own experiences. It's a very difficult thing when you have to cognitively think about standing up !

Aug 25, 2015
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Sep 22, 2015
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Oct 04, 2015
6 Months Post Op NEW
by: TL Rose

I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee 6 months ago. I left the hospital less than two hours after surgery and walked, unassisted, through the yard and into the house. I had a torn lateral meniscus. Two weeks post op I was having issues unrelated to the knee surgery and had to go back. I now have a herniated disc in my lower back that is preventing me from even taking care of daily tasks. But about the knee... It was fine, or as fine as could be, for the first month. After 6 months and 2 days it pops, cracks, and grinds every single time I bend or straighten it, and it will no longer straighten completely out no matter how many exercises I do for it. The surgeon told me PT was not needed after surgery and my only restriction was squatting. He didn't even want me to use crutches. His office gives me problems if I try to make an appointment to see him over it, but no other ortho will see me about it because they weren't the ones to perform the surgery. I'm at a stand still, and I'm extremely frustrated. Now, to walk, I have to tip toe with my left foot, and it's causing my back issues to worsen. I haven't been outside of my house, not even on the porch, in weeks because of it. Does anyone have any advice?

May 24, 2016
Torn meniscus NEW
by: Anonymous

I too had a torn meniscus surgically repaired. It's been almost 3 weeks and the knee pain is gone, but my thigh has been bugging me quite a bit - enough to wake me up at night. I talked to the doctor and he said I had been limping and favoring that knee for years with the torn meniscus. Now the knee doesn't hurt and I'm walking normally - but the muscles and tendons were shortened during the limping period and now they hurt because I'm using them more. He told me to work through it and keep on keeping on. Eventually those muscles and tendons will stretch back to normal. I hope it's soon!

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