We often take our knees for granted.
But as we age, it is common to have issues with our knees, like pain or stiffness.
If you are struggling with knee issues, our orthopedic physical therapy clinic can support you and help you work towards better knee health.
But how do our knees work?
Let’s explore how this pivotal joint in our body operates.
What Are Your Knees?
Your knees are the largest and most complex joint in your body.
They connect your thigh bone, called your femur, to your shinbones, called your tibia and fibula.
Your knees allow you to run, walk, and jump.
They also help to stabilize your body as you move, keeping you balanced.
How Do Your Knees Work?
Your knee is a synovial joint, which means it has the freedom to move.
They’re comprised of two interlocking bone cavities.
Your knee is a hinge joint, much like the hinges that hold a door in place.
They have components that move a specific distance to open and close.
Hinge joints, like your knees, follow the same basic principle, meaning that they open and close in a single direction.
In a synovial joint like your knee, hyaline cartilage covers the ends of these bones.
Your knee also has a synovial membrane, which is a fluid filled sac lubricating and protecting the joint.
This extra cushioning helps your knees move with very little friction.
There are many parts that make up your knee joint.
These include bones, ligaments, and cartilage, as well as muscles and nerves.
In addition to your thigh and shin bones, your knee also contains a triangular bone called the patella, which forms your kneecap.
Cartilage is strong and flexible connective tissues, which adds cushioning and shock absorption to your knee as you move.
Your knee also contains ligaments, which connect the upper and lower bones of your knee.
These can be divided into two types: collateral and cruciate ligaments.
Your two collateral ligaments are on opposite sides of your knee.
They act like straps, preventing your knee from moving too much from side to side.
The medial collateral ligament, or MCL, is on the inner side of your knee.
The lateral collateral ligament, or LCL, is on the outer side of your knee.
These ligaments connect your femur to your tibia and fibula, which together make up your shin bone.
The two cruciate ligaments are inside your knee joint.
They also connect your femur to your tibia.
The cruciate ligaments control the way your knee moves front to back, and they cross each other to form an “X” shape.
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is located at the front of your knee.
The PCL or posterior cruciate ligament is located behind the ACL at the back of your knee.
Common Health Issues With Your Knees
Because your knees are significant weight bearing joints, they are a common source of sports and running injuries.
Let’s look at some issues that can affect the knees.
1. Runner’s Knee
Runner’s knee is a type of anterior knee pain.
It is also known as patellofemoral syndrome or chondromalacia patella.
This condition commonly affects runners, cyclists, and anyone who performs activities that involve jumping.
Runner’s knee can cause dull pain around the patella, or kneecap, where it connects to the femur.
Your knee may also feel tender to the touch.
Rubbing, clicking, or grinding in the kneecap can also occur.
Physical therapy exercises for runner’s knee can help to address and treat this painful condition, and prevent it from reoccurring.
2. Total Knee Replacement
Sometimes when knee osteoarthritis becomes very severe and does not improve with other treatments, you can benefit from a total knee replacement surgery.
In this procedure, the affected parts of your knee bone and any damaged cartilage are removed, and replaced with prosthesis.
The goal of this surgery is to improve range of motion and to reduce pain.
As part of your recovery, physical therapy exercises for total knee replacement can help to strengthen your muscles and help your post surgery recovery proceed smoothly.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the tissue that cushions our joints breaks down or wears away.
Without cartilage acting as a cushion, the bones of our joints rub together, causing discomfort or pain.
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint, and it commonly affects the hands, wrists, knees, hips, and spine.
While it can affect people of any age, it most commonly affects older adults, and is a leading cause of age related disability.
4. Bone Spurs
Bone spurs are smooth bumps or small projections that stick out from your bones.
They can often be found where two bones meet to form a joint, like at your heel, knee, or on your fingers.
Bone spurs are visible through x ray imaging and they are typically diagnosed this way.
While most bone spurs are not painful, if they develop on your knees they can cause pain, and can potentially limit your range of motion.
physical therapy treatments for bone spurs can help manage any chronic pain, and prevent the condition from worsening.
5. Other Knee Issues
There are other issues that can cause knee pain.
The MCL and ACL are ligaments that work to stabilize your knees.
Injuries to your ACL or MCL are both common knee injuries, especially if you play rugby or football.
These injuries can occur when the knee is twisted, or there is force applied just above it, such as in a contact sport.
If the ACL or MCL is severely torn, it may require surgery to repair it.
How To Keep Your Knees Healthy
There are a number of ways we can help take care of our knees and keep them healthy.
These can include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Staying active by walking or biking
- Strengthening the muscles around your knees
- Stretching your muscles
By maintaining a healthy weight and staying active, you can reduce strain on your knees and help to keep them strong.
Stretching before and after exercise can also help to prevent injury to our knees.
Another important way to take care of your knees is to pay attention to any pain or discomfort you may feel.
Addressing knee pain in its early stages can help to prevent further issues in the future.
Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today
Our knees carry us throughout our daily lives, and keeping them healthy and strong can greatly improve our quality of life.
Here at Capitol Physical Therapy, we can support you in recovering from knee injury and keeping your knees strong and healthy.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC