May 8, 2024

Living with weak knees can be more than just a minor inconvenience; it can significantly impact your daily activities and overall quality of life. If you’re noticing that your knees feel weak or you’re experiencing instability while walking, climbing stairs, or standing, you’re not alone.

This article will guide you through understanding the symptoms of weak knees, uncovering the causes, and exploring effective treatments. Plus, we’ll share when it’s time to see a doctor. At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

The essential role of your knees

Your knee is the largest joint in your body and plays a pivotal role in your daily movement and stability.1 It bridges the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia), which are the two longest bones in your body. Thanks to your knee, the complex motions of walking, running, and jumping are possible.

Thigh muscles provide your knee’s strength for smooth motion, while the surrounding ligaments act as vital stabilizers. These ligaments ensure that your knee moves in a controlled manner, preventing unwanted wobbling or instability.

The knee isn’t surrounded by other bones for protection, making it vulnerable to injuries. It plays a crucial role: supporting the upper body’s weight and cushioning the impact from our feet as we move. Given these essential tasks, it’s understandable why weak knees are a significant issue that requires attention and care.

What exactly are weak knees?

Weak knees might sound like a simple issue, but there’s often more to it. Your knees could feel weak for various reasons, ranging from something as straightforward as pushing yourself too hard in a workout to more complex issues like injuries or long-term wear and tear effects. Understanding your body and describing how and when your knee weakness began, along with any related events, is crucial. This information is a valuable starting point for your health care provider to pinpoint the cause and develop a plan to restore your knee health and function.

The term “weak knees” describes a situation where your knees lack the strength or stability to comfortably go about your daily activities. Knee problems do not discriminate; they can affect anyone, regardless of age. If left unchecked, weak knees can disrupt your daily life and potentially lead to more serious health issues down the line.

Symptoms to watch for

Experiencing weak knees can be worrisome, so knowing what to look for is important. Here are the signs that might indicate your knees are not as strong as they should be:

  • You might feel like your knees will buckle under you when you’re on the move or even just standing still.
  • Your knees could hurt or feel uncomfortable, especially when you’re moving around.
  • They might get swollen or stiff, making it hard for you to move as you normally would.
  • Bending or straightening your knees could become a challenge.
  • You might hear a popping or cracking sound when you bend your knees.
  • Sometimes, there might be a burning feeling in your knee area.
  • Getting up from sitting down could be tougher than usual.

Catching these signs early on is key. It means you can start taking action sooner, helping you get back on track to a comfortable and active life.2

Common causes of knee weakness

Understanding why your knees feel weak or suddenly give out is key to addressing the issue and returning to your usual activities. Here’s a breakdown of common causes and their meaning for your knees:

Ligament injuries

Your knee is a key joint that connects your upper leg to your lower leg. It’s held stable by strong bands called ligaments.3 These include the Medial and Lateral Collateral Ligaments (MCL and LCL) on the sides of your knee to prevent it from moving too much side-to-side. The MCL is on the inside, and the LCL is on the outside.

Then there are the Anterior and Posterior Cruciate Ligaments (ACL and PCL). The ACL is in the middle of your knee, helping control the forward movement, while the PCL connects the back of your lower leg bone to your thighbone, keeping the backward movement in check. If these ligaments are damaged, which can happen through tears, your knee might not be as stable as it should be.

Meniscal tears

Meniscal tears are very common, especially in young athletes. They can also be common among adults with arthritis. As we age, the cartilage breaks down and can tear more easily. Problems with the meniscus can cause weakness and pain in the knee. 4

Kneecap issues

Patellar Dislocation or Subluxation: The kneecap (patella) normally moves smoothly in a groove. However, a direct blow can dislocate it, causing severe instability. Dislocation means it’s completely out of place, while subluxation refers to partial displacement.5

Plica syndrome

This condition stems from inflammation of the knee joint’s inner lining, which causes pain, weakness, and clicking. This can lead to difficulty moving the knee, particularly when squatting.6


Various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory arthritis, can lead to knee weakness. Symptoms generally include pain, stiffness, swelling, and difficulty moving.

Nerve damage

Damage to the femoral nerve can cause sensations of knee instability, along with tingling or burning pain. This damage might occur due to injury, pressure on the nerve, or conditions like diabetes.7

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. It can weaken the muscles supporting the knee, leading to spasms, balance issues, and a sensation of the knee giving out.

Exercises for strengthening weak knees

As we age, it’s natural for our knees to lose strength, just like any other body part. And if we put them through a lot of work, like with sports or long walks, they might start feeling weaker faster. The good news is that keeping your knees strong doesn’t require a gym membership or heavy lifting. Consistent, gentle exercises can make a big difference in maintaining knee strength.

For each exercise below, try to do three sets of 10 repetitions. Remember to start slowly and build up to more sets or repetitions to avoid further injury or weakness.

Squats with support

Squats are great for knee strength, but start in front of a chair or against a wall to keep your balance. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, and squat down. If you’re using a chair, try sitting back without letting your knees go past your toes. Then, stand up again. Begin with quarter or half squats and work your way up.

Chair sits-to-stands

Exactly as it sounds: sit down in a chair slowly, then stand up. Begin with a higher chair and move to a lower one as you get stronger. For an extra challenge, hold weights or try using one leg.8

Straight leg lifts

Sitting up with your feet on the floor, tighten your thigh muscles and lift one leg straight out. Hold, then lower it slowly.

Side leg raises

Lie down, keep your top leg straight, and lift it about 6 inches off the ground. Hold it, then lower it slowly.

Hamstring curls

These are great for reducing stiffness. Bend one leg at a time towards your backside, keeping your thighs aligned. For a challenge, add weights or a band.

These exercises are designed to be safe and effective for strengthening your knees. However, listening to your body and consulting with a professional if you encounter pain or discomfort is important. Building up the muscles around your knees can help you enjoy more activities with less weakness and pain.

Treatment for weak knees

Treating weak knees involves reviewing the symptoms and finding the root cause for the weakness or pain. Your health care provider may recommend exercises you can do at home to help strengthen the knee and relieve knee pain. Other options for treatment of weak knees may include:

In addition to exercises, professional treatment options may include:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can tailor a specific exercise program to your needs, focusing on strengthening and increasing flexibility.
  • Medication: Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help manage pain and swelling.
  • Supportive devices: Knee braces or orthotics can provide additional support and stability.9
  • Weight loss: Your doctor may recommend weight loss if being overweight causes added knee stress.
  • Surgery: As a last resort, your doctor may recommend it if indicated.

When to see a doctor

You should consult a health care provider if you have severe knee pain or weakness that does not improve with home care. This is especially important if you notice significant swelling, redness, or warmth around the knee or if you hear a popping sound when the injury occurs. These signs can indicate a more serious issue that requires professional attention to prevent further complications and ensure proper healing.

At Healthcare Associates of Texas, we’re committed to providing personalized care for your weak knees. Our team of health care professionals is here to help you understand your condition and guide you through your treatment options.

Overcoming knee weakness with expert care from Healthcare Associates of Texas

Recognizing the early signs of knee weakness, understanding its root causes, and incorporating targeted exercises and treatments can significantly enhance knee strength and overall well-being. At Healthcare Associates of Texas, our commitment is to provide comprehensive care and support for all your health needs, especially when facing a challenge like weak knees. We encourage you not to let these issues hold you back. You’re taking a crucial step towards stronger, healthier knees and a life free from limitations by reaching out and scheduling an appointment.

Experiencing weak knees often signals deeper health issues that shouldn’t be ignored. With the right knowledge, practical exercises, and professional support, overcoming knee weakness is within your reach. Trust in the expertise of Healthcare Associates of Texas to guide you to stronger knees and better health, ensuring an active, pain-free life.


  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Knee Ligament Injuries.” In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. Accessed March 12, 2024.
  2. Davis, Charles Patrick. “What Causes Weakness in the Knee?” MedicineNet. Accessed March 12, 2024.
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Ligament Injuries to the Knee.” Accessed March 12, 2024.
  4. Cleveland Clinic. “Torn Meniscus.” Accessed March 12, 2024.
  5. Mayo Clinic. “Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome.” Accessed March 12, 2024.
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Meniscal Tears.” In StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. Accessed March 12, 2024.
  7. “Multiple Sclerosis.” Accessed March 12, 2024.
  8. Davis, Charles Patrick. “What Causes Weakness in the Knee?” MedicineNet. Accessed March 12, 2024.

Arthritis Foundation. “Tips for Healthy Knees.” Accessed March 12, 2024.

The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.

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