Cramps and pains of the lower extremities along with stiffness and pains in the knees are common complaints in the general population. Because the etiology and development of these disorders are poorly understood, treatment has been haphazard, for the most part unsuccessful, and occasionally dangerous. The diagnosis of "arthritis" is often incorrect; when osteoarthritis is present it is frequently not the cause of the pain. We name these maladies the "stiff leg syndrome" and hypothesise that they are caused by muscle and tendon shortening which came about as a direct result of modern civilization; the popular practice of squatting close to the ground to defecate, cook and eat was replaced by a more "civilized" practice of sitting high on toilets and chairs. We discuss several simple stretching exercises which mimic the effects of squatting and frequently result in immediate and dramatic relief of symptoms.