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Hear some popping or clicking when this joint is extended?

By Mike Bills, MS PT

Why do knee problems occur in the first place? In order to fully understand knee problems, you need to know a little about the makeup of the knee joint. The knee joint is the junction of two major bones of your knee fitting together to form a hinge joint, like a door. The major difference between the hinge of a door and your knee joint is the way it is made. Your knee joint is made by the junction between the femur (your upper leg bone) and your tibia (your big lower leg bone). At the knee, the femur is a rounded bone. It sits on top of the tibia, which at your knee is a flat bone. So unlike the hinge of a door, or other parts of your body like your hip, the knee has no real interlocking pieces to help to give it stability. To make up for this inherent weakness, your knee has ligaments that hold it together. You may have heard of some of these:

  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Anterior cruciate Ligament (ACL)

Ligaments are like ropes, they are not meant to stretch. Their job is to be tight around the knee and hold the round portion of the femur in place on the flat surface of the tibia. An additional protective mechanism to try to give better support to your knees comes in the form of the meniscus of the knee. These are two half moon discs that are somewhat concave in design. They sit on top of the tibia and try to create a little bit of suction between the femur and the tibia.

To complicate your knee joint make up just a little more, we throw in the patella, your knee cap. This small, basically floating bone is supposed to track perfectly in a little groove on the front side of the femur.  The purpose of the knee cap is to provide extra stability.

So how do common knee injuries or problems get started? It all comes down to poor mechanics. For starters, the knee joint is a very unstable joint because of its makeup as noted above. Technically, your knee is meant to only flex and extend, bend and straighten. But as a result of the way it is designed, there is the potential for rotation of the bones on one another, side to side motion of the bones on one another, as well as forward and backward motion of the bones on one another.  All of this excess movement is what causes or allows knee problems and injury to occur.

Here are the most common knee problems (other than arthtritis):

  1. Ligament problems:  these can occur over time or with one specific injury
  2. Meniscus problems:  these can also occur over time or with one specific injury
  3. Patellofemoral dysfunction:  this is the result of the knee cap tracking improperly.

Any of the above knee problems will present with:

  • Varying levels of knee pain, ache and soreness of the knee
  • Varying levels of swelling.
  • Possible clicking and popping of the knee joint with movement
  • Stiff feeling in the knee when you sit or stand for any period of time
  • Inability to bend or straighten the knee all the way
  • A feeling of weakness in the knee especially with stairs, curbs, or changing position
  • Buckling of the knee or a feeling that the knee is loose
  • The list goes on and on

So you are probably wondering; “How do I prevent knee problems from occurring?” Assuming you don’t have any of the above symptoms already, then the best way to protect your knees is to ensure that you have the proper proportion of strength and flexibility of the muscles around your knee.  This includes (but not limited to) your quadriceps, hamstrings, calf and a number of other muscles that start in your hip and travel down your leg.

“But what if I am already having problems with my knee as noted above?” The answer is pretty simple. Barring a complete tear of a ligament; this would be like cutting a rope into two parts and most almost always involves a significant injury, all other knee problems can heal and fully recover if you do the proper things for them.  That is where physical therapy at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center comes in. Our expert physical therapists can evaluate your knee, listen to your symptoms and how they effect you, perform a number of specific tests and come to a definite conclusion as to whether you have a ligament, meniscus, or patellofemoral problem.  From that conclusion, we can establish a comprehensive plan of care that will correct the problem. But best of all we can get you started and finished on a treatment process that will ensure that whatever the problem is IT WILL HEAL. Yes it is possible to HEAL any of these common knee problems without surgery just as any common cut in your skin would heal.

Call our office TODAY AT 703-450-4300 to start handling your knee problems for good.

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

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