The knee joint is one of the most complex joints in the body – it is made up of 4 bones and a network of many ligaments and muscles.
The four bones are the femur, tibia, fibula and patella. The knee has 2 semi circular pieces of cartilage called menisci (one is called a meniscus!), and the main ligaments are the anterior and posterior cruciates, and the medial ad lateral collateral ligaments.
The knee is powered by the quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, tensor fasciae latae and the popliteus muscles (along with some other muscles of the lower leg).
Knees can be a source of discomfort and frustration for many people. Here are a few of the more common knee complaints to give you a little more information and hopefully help you seek the right help for your complaints.
Ligament strains and tears
There are 4 ligaments prone to injury in the knee.
The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (they are called this because they cross over in the middle of the knee joint – cruciate means cross in latin) and they can partially or fully tear with knee trauma.
If you have a cruciate tear you would very likely know about it. They are commonly torn during sports activities or other trauma such as car accidents. The anterior cruciate ligament is more likely to tear than the posterior, but we have seen patients who have had both tear!
The same can be said for the collateral ligaments. They run along the sides of the knee joint and help with stabilisation of the knee. Again they can partially or fully tear with trauma to the knee (usually trauma to the side of the knee – think along the lines of a football tackle…)
- Difficulty weight bearing
- Instability and knee “giving way”
Tears are usually graded, Grade 1 being classed as a sprain, Grade 2 is a partial rupture and grade 3 is a full rupture.
The best course of action for fully ruptured ligaments is usually surgical reconstruction, but each case is different, and a sprain or partially torn ligament often does not require surgery.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
This is also sometimes called “runner’s knee” and is a very common cause of knee pain. Pain is often felt in the front of the knee.
There are a few possible causes of this complaint:
- Weakness in the quadriceps or glut muscles
- Tight Iliotibial band
- Tight Hamstrings
The treatment for this should always include manual therapy, home exercises and advice on limiting and adapting regular activities during the healing phase.
It is important to rule out other knee pathologies before diagnosing patellofemoral pain syndrome, this is something our practitioners are trained to do! Chiropractors and osteopaths are able to diagnose conditions such as this alongside correcting any other area of the body that might need some adjustment. They may also recommend some home exercises and advice.
You have 2 C-shaped pieces of cartilage in each knee – the medial and lateral menisci. These can sometimes be a cause of knee pain and pain levels can vary from mild to severe.
Meniscal tears can be acute (usually caused by trauma to the area) or chronic (often in older people due to wear and tear).
Depending on which meniscus is damaged the pain will be felt on the inside or outside of the knee. Usually the pain would be felt with weight bearing or certain movements, depending on the type of tear present.
Management of the tear depends on the type of tear – often strengthening and stabilisation of the knee will be enough to alleviate the symptoms but if it’s a particular type of tear then surgical intervention will be necessary.
Our practitioners are able to do certain tests to help them diagnose what is causing your knee pain, then suggest a personalised course of action. Knee pain is not something you have to live with – often I will hear that people limit their activity level due to their “dodgy knees”, this does not have to be the case!