Knee pain is a common compliant that affects people of all ages. Knee pain may be the result of an injury, such as a ruptured ligament or torn cartilage, or wear over time resulting in a knee replacement. Medical conditions – including arthritis, gout and infections – also can cause knee pain.
Many types of knee pain respond well to conservative measures. like physical therapy, although some require surgical intervention.
The knee is one of the largest joints in the human body, and one of the most easily injured subsequently causing knee pain, requiring physical therapy and sports rehab. The knee joint is made up of four main things: bone, ligaments, tendons and cartilage.
Bones: Your femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone) and patella (knee cap) meet to form your knee joint.
Articular cartilage: The ends of the femur and tibia, and the back of the patella are covered with articular cartilage. This slippery substance helps your knee bones glide smoothly across each other as you bend and straighten your leg.
Meniscus: This tough and rubbery structure helps to cushion and stabilize the joint, acting as “shock absorbers” between your femur and tibia. You have a medial meniscus on the inside on your knee and a lateral meniscus on the outside of your knee. When people talk about torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually referring to the meniscus.
Ligaments: Bones are connected to other bones by ligaments. The four ligaments in your knee act like strong ropes to hold the bones together and keep your knee stable.
Collateral Ligaments: These are found on both sides of your knee. The medial collateral ligament is on the inside of your knee, and the lateral collateral ligament is on the outside. They control the sideways motion of your knee.
Cruciate Ligaments: These are found inside your knee joint, and cross each other like an “X”. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) crosses in the front and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in the back. The cruciate ligaments control the back and forth motion of your knee.
Tendons: Muscle are connected to bones by tendons. The quadriceps tendon connects your quadriceps (thigh muscles) to your patella (knee cap). You also have a patella tendon that connects the patella (knee cap) to the tibia (shinbone).
Numerous muscles that help with movement and stabilization also surround the knee joint. Some of these muscles include the quadriceps, hamstrings, iliotibial band, and calf muscles. The muscles of your hip also play a critical role in knee function.
The location and severity of knee pain can widely vary depending on the cause. Knee pain can be localized to a specific area of the knee or diffused throughout the knee, and is often accompanied by physical restriction. Knee pain can be divided into three major categories:
A thorough physical examination will usually establish the diagnosis of knee pain. The underlying cause of knee pain will help direct the treatment and plan of care. Most instances of knee pain can be successfully treated conservatively (physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, etc.) although some injuries may require surgical intervention.