The knee is the largest and one of the most complex joints in the body. It plays a critical role in everyday movement and is one of the most commonly injured parts of the body.
- Bones – the knee is made up of four bones, the femur (thigh bone), the patella (kneecap) and the tibia and fibula (bones of the lower leg)
- Joint capsule – is a thick fibrous structure that surrounds the knee. Inside this capsule is the synovial membrane which provides nourishment and lubrication for the knee
- Ligaments – these are strong fibrous bands which provide the knee with its stability. The medial (MCL) and lateral (LCL) collateral ligaments limit sideways movement of the knee, the cruciate ligaments (ACL and PCL) limit forward, backward and rotational movements of the knee, and the patellar ligament attaches the kneecap to the tibia
- Articular cartilage – is the smooth, hard covering over the ends of the bones. Its function is to allow smooth movement of the joint
- Meniscus – two crescent shaped cartilage discs (medial and lateral) which sit on top of the tibia and provide for shock absorption, weight distribution and stability of the knee
- Muscle – there are two main muscles of the knee. The quadriceps are found at the front of the thigh and their function is to straighten the knee. The quadriceps attach to the patella, which then connect to the tibia via the patellar tendon. The hamstrings are the muscle group which lie behind the knee and bend it
- Bursa – the bursae are fluid filled sacs that provide a gliding surface to reduce friction between bones and soft tissue
Causes of Knee Pain
Damage through trauma or degeneration to any of the above structures may lead to knee pain. Knee pain can also occur in other pathological conditions such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of knee injuries may include pain, swelling, sensations of ‘locking’ or ‘giving way’, or noises such as grinding, grating or popping.
How can physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapy for knee pain is aimed at reducing pain and restoring function and strength. A physiotherapist will begin by taking a detailed history and perform a physical assessment to work out the cause of your pain. Treatment may include RICER, heat, electrotherapy, strapping and appropriate exercises to improve strength, range of motion and flexibility. Where appropriate, hydrotherapy may be used as an adjunct to treatment.