There are various potential causes of knee pain while sitting. These include sitting for too long, sitting in an awkward position, ergonomics, and several underlying conditions.

Many people spend long periods sitting during work and leisure, which may cause or worsen knee pain.

This article looks at potential causes of knee pain while sitting, risk factors, and how to manage and prevent knee pain while sitting.

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Most older adults spend around 80% of their waking hours in a sitting position. Researchers have linked sedentary behaviors, such as long periods of sitting, with chronic knee pain.

Sitting and knee pain may each affect the other. Knee pain may cause people to sit for long periods, and sitting for too long can cause joint stiffness, muscle weakness, and reduced knee flexibility, which all contribute to knee pain.

A person’s sitting position can impact their musculoskeletal system, and an awkward position may cause knee, back, and neck pain.

Positions, such as kneeling and sitting cross-legged, that keep the knees bent under pressure can affect the range of motion in the knee and may increase the risk of stiffness and pain.

The setup of a person’s workspace may contribute to an awkward or strained sitting position, leading to knee pain and other problems.

Ergonomic workspaces include equipment that offers support and comfort while people work to help avoid stress or injury from long periods of sitting.

A workspace may contribute to knee and other pain while sitting if:

  • the chair is the wrong height, and a person cannot comfortably sit with their feet firmly on the floor
  • the chair is not adjustable and cannot swivel or roll
  • the chair does not have lumbar support and does not support a neutral sitting posture
  • a person cannot get up and move or adjust their position regularly
  • the height of the desk or computer causes a person to maintain a strained sitting position

Various underlying conditions can cause knee pain while sitting. These include arthritis and various knee injuries.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis and can cause stiffness and pain in one or both knees. People sometimes refer to OA as “wear and tear arthritis,” as it typically occurs as people age and their joints degrade.

OA often affects the knees and may cause a scraping or grating feeling when the knee moves.

Other types of arthritis can also cause knee pain, which may be particularly noticeable:

  • after resting or waking up
  • at the end of the day or after long periods of activity
  • while sedentary

Knee injuries

Everyday activities, overuse, and exercise can cause knee injuries, which can cause pain while sitting.

Common knee injuries include:

Read more about common knee injuries.

There are various risk factors for knee pain, including:

  • sitting for long periods
  • sitting in awkward positions, such as kneeling or cross-legged
  • sitting in poorly designed workspaces for prolonged periods
  • taking part in sports that involve high contact, running, or jumping
  • performing repetitive motions with the knee
  • being aged 60 years and older
  • having arthritis
  • having obesity

Below are some tips for managing knee pain and preventing it from worsening.

  • Sitting for too long: A person should get up and move every 20–30 minutes and adjust their sitting position often.
  • Sitting in an awkward position: A person should sit with their back, thighs, and hips supported and their feet planted firmly on the floor. Individuals should be mindful of their position during their daily activities and avoid crossing their legs or putting their body parts under strain.
  • Ergonomics: A person should adjust their workspace to support their body and provide comfort during sitting. People should select chairs with lumbar support and position them to the correct height to allow for comfortable sitting with good posture. The desk or workspace should be at the correct height to avoid a strained position.
  • Arthritis: Treatment to manage knee pain from arthritis can include physical and occupational therapy; medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); and surgery, such as knee replacement.
  • Injury: Treatment to manage knee pain from injury can vary depending on the type of injury. It may involve resting the knee, applying ice to the injury, and taking medication to relieve pain. A person may require bracing equipment and, in some cases, physical therapy and surgery.

Find 14 home remedies for knee pain.

A person should contact a doctor if their knee pain:

  • is severe
  • does not get better within a few weeks
  • is accompanied by swelling
  • is accompanied by locking, buckling, or clicking
  • prevents movement in the knee
  • prevents a person from putting weight on the knee

Knee pain from sitting can occur for various reasons.

A sedentary lifestyle could play a part, as it can lead to stiff joints and weak knee muscles. Awkward positions that strain the knees, such as kneeling, can also cause pain.

Knee pain can also occur due to underlying conditions, such as arthritis and various knee injuries. A person with an underlying condition may require medical treatment, such as medication, physical therapy, or surgery.

A person should contact a doctor if their knee pain is severe or persistent.