What are some common knee problems?
Many knee problems are a result of the aging process and continual wear and stress on the knee joint (i.e., arthritis). Other knee problems are a result of an injury or a sudden movement that strains the knee. Common knee problems include the following:
- sprained or strained knee ligaments and/or muscles
A sprained or strained knee ligament or muscle is usually caused by a blow to the knee or a sudden twist of the knee. Symptoms often include pain, swelling, and difficulty in walking.
- torn cartilage
Trauma to the knee can tear the menisci (pads of connective tissue that act as shock absorbers and also enhance stability). Cartilage tears can often occur with sprains. Treatment may involve wearing a brace during an activity to protect the knee from further injury. Surgery may be needed to repair the tear.
Inflammation of the tendons may result from overuse of a tendon during certain activities such as running, jumping, or cycling. Tendonitis of the patellar tendon is called jumper's knee. This often occurs with sports such as basketball, where the force of hitting the ground after a jump strains the tendon.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that affects the knee. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative process where the cartilage in the joint gradually wears away, and often affects middle-age and older people. Osteoarthritis may be caused by excess stress on the joint such as repeated injury or being overweight.
Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the knees by causing the joint to become inflamed and by destroying the knee cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis often affects persons at an earlier age than osteoarthritis.
What is a torn meniscus?
The ends of the three bones in the knee - the femur, tibia, and patella - are covered with cartilage (a smooth material that covers bone ends of a joint to cushion the bone and allow the joint to move easily without pain) that acts as a shock absorber. Between the bones of the knees are two crescent-shaped discs of connective tissue, called menisci, which also act as shock absorbers to cushion the lower part of the leg from the weight of the rest of the body.
Meniscus tears can occur during a rotating movement while bearing weight, such as when twisting the upper leg while the foot stays in one place during sports and other activities. Tears can be minor, with the meniscus staying connected to the knee, or major, with the meniscus barely attached to the knee by a cartilage thread.
What are the symptoms of a torn meniscus?
The following are the most common symptoms of a torn meniscus. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- pain, especially when holding the knee straight
- knee may click or lock
- knee may feel weak
The symptoms of a torn meniscus may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Knee Ligament Injuries
What are knee ligaments?
There are four major ligaments in the knee. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bones to each other and provide stability and strength to the joint. The four main ligaments in the knee connect the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shin bone), and include the following: anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) - the ligament, located in the center of the knee, that controls rotation and forward movement of the tibia (shin bone).
posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) - the ligament, located in the center of the knee, that controls backward movement of the tibia (shin bone).
medial collateral ligament (MCL) - the ligament that gives stability to the inner knee.
lateral collateral ligament (LCL) - the ligament that gives stability to the outer knee.
How are cruciate ligaments injured?
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most common ligament to be injured. The ACL is often stretched and/or torn during a sudden twisting motion (when the feet stay planted one way, but the knees turn the other way). Skiing, basketball, and football are sports that have a higher risk of ACL injuries.
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is also a common ligament to become injured in the knee. However, the PCL injury usually occurs with sudden, direct impact, such as in a car accident or during a football tackle.
What are the symptoms of a cruciate ligament injury?
Often, a cruciate ligament injury does not cause pain. Instead, the person may hear a popping sound as the injury occurs, followed by the leg buckling when trying to stand on it, and swelling. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
The symptoms of a cruciate ligament injury may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
How are collateral ligaments injured?
The medial collateral ligament is injured more often than the lateral collateral ligament. Stretch and tear injuries to the collateral ligaments are usually caused by a blow to the outer side of the knee, such as when playing hockey or football.
What are the symptoms of a collateral ligament injury?
Similar to cruciate ligament injuries, an injury to the collateral ligament causes the knee to pop and buckle, causing pain and swelling.
The symptoms of a collateral ligament injury may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
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