Stretching the Knee: Active and Passive

When you think of stretching, your mind may think about arm circles and shoulder stretches that Olympic swimmers do right before they jump in the water. This is actually just one type of stretching: active stretching.

While this type of stretching is great for athletes and others that are typically pain free, it may not be best for you, if you have knee pain or a knee injury. The other type of stretching, passive stretching, is great for relaxing and relieving pain in the knee joint.

Here’s the difference.

Active stretching is exactly what the name implies —the stretches you do before you do something active. Before running, active stretches involve your leg muscles like your quads, calves, and hamstrings. These stretches, while very beneficial for prevention of an injury, are less beneficial when the knee is hurting.

Passive stretching, on the other hand, is all about comfort. If you position your joint in different ways that are comfortable and pain free, your nervous system will be able to calm down and let go of tension. The nerves in your knee will adjust to any additional space you create in the joint.

You can put on a movie or listen to music when you stretch so you direct your focus away from the stretches. This supports you in taking your time, and letting your body do the work.

Passive stretching is also like the name implies. It is passive and does not create pain or tension. When you don’t feel pain in the stretch, your mind wants to believe that you are doing it wrong, or it cannot be helping you.

Passive stretching is counter-intuitive.

When the nerves are not being squeezed or pinched, your body relaxes, and you feel no pain in your knee. Passive stretches work with the intrinsic movements of your knee. Twisting, shifting and pulling on the knee joint helps take your knee to a place of comfort.

Using passive stretching can help get your knees to a place where they will be relaxed and eventually ready for active stretching. If you are interested in this type of pain relief, you can click here to read about my program: The Comfort Zone. I have eleven passive stretches that will help you find and heal the knee pain you are feeling.

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Hi Bill, My name is Andrea, I had a knee replacement on my left knee 2 years ago, I worked very hard doing all my exercises after the operation. My left knee is very good now, sometimes feels a little tight due to my other knee hurting now. Three months after my operation my right knee went on me, I went back to my doctor she said if I did all the same exercises I did for the other knee I could save my knee for another 7 years before operating. Well my left knee kept on going on me,… Read more »


Look,i tear my lateral meniscus 5 months ago and i have a surgery 3 months ago and after a lot of exersices and a lot of other things i do get my musles strong but i dont feel comfortable with my knee . i can run and jump and do everything but not as good as i used to do before the injury and i am just 15 and i realy need my knees to be in action . i steel have a lot of knee pain in the side ofe the knee where rhe lateral meniscus is . i… Read more »

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