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An overview of the Knee

The knee is a hinge joint responsible for movement, stability, absorbing shock and weight bearing. Knee injuries are common and can be from muscle imbalance, sports injuries, or degenerative disease.

Anatomy of the knee 

The knee consists of bones, meniscus, ligaments, cartilage and tendons. The hinge joint allows the leg to extend and bend with limited motion in other planes. 

Within the main part of the knee joint, you’ll find the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). Between these bones is the meniscus, which acts as a shock absorber. At the front of the knee lies the patella (kneecap). 

The knee has four ligaments that help to stabilise the joint. These are:

  • ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) 
  • PCL (posterior cruciate ligament)
  • MCL (medial collateral ligament)
  • LCL (lateral collateral ligament)

Your knee contains a capsule filled with synovial fluid that nourishes and lubricates the joint. 14 fluid-filled Bursa sacs help to reduce friction between tissues and prevent inflammation. 

The patella tendon is the main tendon in the knee joint. This tendon covers the patella and attaches to the quadriceps muscle.

How to look after your knees

Your knees are important joints that need to be strong to function optimally. 

You can look after your knees by strengthening the surrounding muscles, maintaining healthy body weight, staying active, stretching and taking part in low impact exercises such as cycling and swimming.  

What causes knee pain?

In a healthy knee, all parts will work in harmony. Pain can be the result of inflammation of the joint due to arthritis, muscle injury, problems with cartilage or meniscus tissue, or an injury to the ligaments. Muscle imbalances in other areas of the body can also result in knee pain.

A thorough assessment of the knee by a professional and a discussion around your symptoms should be able to identify the issue. You may also have scans for a further investigation.

What can I do about knee pain?

You should have your painful knee assessed by a professional. This could be a GP, Orthopaedic Surgeon or Physiotherapist. 

The expert may prescribe exercises or perform manual therapies to help with the condition. However, sometimes surgery is the only way to restore the knee to its full function. 

When you are struggling with pain in your knee, you should discuss pain medication with your GP or Pharmacist. 

Common types of knee conditions

There are lots of conditions that can cause pain in the knee. They may be recovered with rest, movement, rehabilitation or surgery.

Here are some common knee conditions:

  • Meniscal tear
  • Sprains and strains (often to the ACL or MCL)
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Fracture
  • Overuse 

Knee surgery 

There are several common types of knee surgeries. These include:

  • Unicompartmental Knee Replacement
  • Total Knee Replacement
  • Osteochondral Grafting of the Knee
  • Knee Arthroscopy
  • Autograft Chondrocyte Implantation of the Knee
  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

You can find out more about these surgeries and what’s involved by visiting our Patient Resource Centre.

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