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I work at a desk 10 hours per day. I'm also 45 years old. Not suprisingly, the backs if my legs are chronically tight.

What seems unusual is that when exercising or stretching I always feel the tightness/pain directly behind my knees. I'm not sure if the problem is tight hamstrings (upper leg) terminating in the knee, or the calf muscles (lower leg) terminating at the knee. Or if the tightness is from neither.

When I do traditional hamstring stretches I feel the stretch most acutely behind the knee (not under my butt), likewise with traditional calf stretches, I feel behind the knee.

So the question: am I feeling tightness behind the knee tight hamstrings/calves and I just happen to feel it behind the knees? Or is it something else?

Any good stretches to relieve behind the knee tightness?

Thanks

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1 Answer 1

Both the gastronemius and the hamstrings cross the back of the knee joint, so both can be tight from sitting 10 hours per day. Muscles can tighten, but the fascia can also become stuck and stop gliding well. Hydration is important for fascial mobility. Here are some suggestions:

  • Gastroc - The simple wall stretch will target the muscle. Make sure to align your heel with your toes to prevent your arch from collapsing as you lean into the wall. The stretch should be felt behind the knee or in the upper calf. You can also use the stair stretch where you drop your heel over the edge.
  • Hamstrings - The hamstrings are a two joint muscle meaning that they cross the hip and the knee. When you stretch the hamstrings you may feel tightness anywhere along the muscle. Try different hamstring stretches to find the one(s) that best isolate where you want the stretch. You can stretch them with your leg out straight on a step or bench as you lean forward. You can stretch them lying on your back or sitting using a towel or strap to assist the stretch. Or you can stretch them in by bending forward in standing with one leg crossed in front of the other, or on the floor with your leg(s) stretched out. Adding a contraction of the muscle for a few seconds can then help you stretch further as you release the contraction (PNF - contract/relax).
  • Popliteus - There is also a smaller muscle called the popliteus that can restrict full knee extension. This muscle will stretch somewhat as you stretch the hamstrings. However, if it is symptomatic you may need a massage or physical therapist to work on it as it is deep and near nerves and arteries.
  • Massaging tight muscles can be done with a foam roller for hamstrings and gastrocs.
  • Prevention is important. Straighten out your knee as often as you can while working. If your desk has a back to it, place your foot up on the back and do a quick hamstring stretch. Then do the other. Or you can use a stretching strap or towel to do a stretch sitting at your desk. You can roll a small ball back and forth under your desk to keep the muscles and joints lubricated. Try to avoid a static position for prolonged periods and get up and walk when you can.
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