The knee is a complex joint made up of different structures - bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. They all work together to maintain the knee’s normal function and provide stability to the knee during movement.
Having a well-functioning healthy knee is essential for our mobility and ability to participate in various activities. Understanding the anatomy of the knee enhances your ability to discuss and choose the right treatment procedure for knee problems with your doctor.
Bones of the Knee
The knee is a hinge joint made up of two bones, the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). There are two round knobs at the end of the femur called femoral condyles that articulate with the flat surface of the tibia called the tibial plateau. The tibial plateau on the inside of the leg is called the medial tibial plateau and on the outside of the leg, the lateral tibial plateau.
The two femoral condyles form a groove on the front (anterior) side of the knee called the patellofemoral groove. A small bone called the patella sits in this groove and forms the kneecap. It acts as a shield and protects the knee joint from direct trauma.
A fourth bone called the fibula is the other bone of the lower leg. This forms a small joint with the tibia. This joint has very little movement and is not considered a part of the main joint of the knee.
Articular Cartilage and Menisci of the Knee
Movement of the bones causes friction between the articulating surfaces. To reduce this friction, all articulating surfaces involved in the movement are covered with a white, shiny, slippery layer called articular cartilage. The articulating surface of the femoral condyles, tibial plateaus and the back of the patella are covered with this cartilage. The cartilage provides a smooth surface that facilitates easy movement.
To further reduce friction between the articulating surfaces of the bones, the knee joint is lined by a synovial membrane that produces a thick clear fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates and nourishes the cartilage and bones inside the joint capsule.
Within the knee joint, between the femur and tibia, are two C-shaped cartilaginous structures called menisci. Menisci function to provide stability to the knee by spreading the weight of the upper body across the whole surface of the tibial plateau. The menisci help in load-bearing i.e. it prevents the weight from concentrating onto a small area, which could damage the articular cartilage. The menisci also act as a cushion between the femur and tibia by absorbing the shock produced by activities such as walking, running and jumping.
Ligaments of the Knee
Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect one bone to another bone. The ligaments of the knee stabilize the knee joint. There are two important groups of ligaments that hold the bones of the knee joint together, collateral and cruciate ligaments.
Collateral ligaments are present on either side of the knee. They prevent the knee from moving too far during side to side motion. The collateral ligament on the inside is called the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the collateral ligament on the outside is called the lateral collateral ligament (LCL).
Cruciate ligaments, present inside the knee joint, control the back-and-forth motion of the knee. The cruciate ligament in the front of the knee is called anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the cruciate ligament in the back of the knee is called posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).
Muscles of the Knee
There are two major muscles in the knee - the quadriceps and the hamstrings, which enable movement of the knee joint. The quadriceps muscles are located in front of the thigh. When the quadriceps muscles contract, the knee straightens. The hamstrings are located at the back of the thigh. When the hamstring muscles contract, the knee bends.
Tendons of the Knee
A tendon is a tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone. The quadriceps muscles of the knee meet just above the patella and attach to it through a tendon called the quadriceps tendon. The patella further attaches to the tibia through a tendon called the patella tendon. The quadriceps muscle, quadriceps tendon, and patellar tendon all work together to straighten the knee. Similarly, the hamstring muscles at the back of the leg are attached to the knee joint with the hamstring tendon.
Chondromalacia patella is a common condition characterized by softening, weakening and damage of the cartilage. The condition is most often seen in young athletes and older adults who have arthritis of the knee. It especially occurs in women.
Jumper’s knee, also known as patellar tendinitis, is inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. This tendon helps in the extension of the lower leg.
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac found between soft tissues and bones. It lubricates and acts as a cushion to decrease friction between bones when they move.
The knee consists of a fluid called synovial fluid, which reduces the friction between the bones of the knee joint while you move your leg. Sometimes this fluid is produced in excess, resulting in its accumulation in the back of your knee.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
An iliotibial band is a tough group of fibers that runs from the iliac crest of the hip along the outside of the thigh, till the outer side of the shinbone, just below the knee joint. Its function is to coordinate with the thigh muscles and provide stability to the knee joint.
Lateral Patellar Compression Syndrome
Lateral patellar compression syndrome refers to pain under and around your kneecap. It is a common complaint among runners, jumpers and other athletes such as skiers, cyclists, and soccer players.
Shin splints are pain and inflammation of the tendons, muscles and bone tissue along the tibia or shinbone (lower leg). It occurs because of vigorous physical activities such as exercise or sports. The condition is also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).
Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the common symptoms of any damage or injury to the knee. If care is not taken during the initial phases of injury, it may lead to joint damage, which may end up destroying your knee.
The knee joint is one of the largest joints in the body. This highly complex joint has several tissues supporting and stabilizing its movement
Goosefoot Bursitis of the Knee
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac found between soft tissues and bones. It lubricates and acts as a cushion, decreasing the friction between bones when they move. Bursitis refers to the inflammation and swelling of the bursa.
Knee sprain is a common injury that occurs from overstretching of the ligaments that support the knee joint. A knee sprain occurs when the knee ligaments are twisted or turned beyond its normal range, causing the ligaments to tear.
Knee infection is a serious medical condition that needs immediate treatment. Infection may occur followed by a knee replacement surgery or trauma and is usually caused by bacteria. Infection may spread to the space of the knee joint or deep layers of your knee causing serious complications.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the major ligaments of the knee. It is located in the middle of the knee and runs from the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). The ACL prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. Together with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), it provides rotational stability to the knee.
The medial collateral ligament (MCL), a band of tissue present on the inside of your knee joint, connects your thighbone and shinbone (bone of your lower leg). The MCL maintains the integrity of the knee joint and prevents it from bending inward.
Meniscal tears are among the commonest injuries to the knee joint. It can occur at any age but are more common in athletes involved in contact sports. The meniscus has no direct blood supply and for that reason, when there is an injury to the meniscus, healing is difficult.
A meniscal tear is a common knee injury in athletes, especially those involved in contact sports. A sudden bend or twist in your knee causes the meniscus to tear. Elderly people are more prone to degenerative meniscal tears as the cartilage wears out and weakens with age.
The knee is a hinge joint made up of two bones, the thighbone (femur) and shinbone (tibia). Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect one bone to another bone. The ligaments of the knee stabilize the knee joint.
The knee is a complex joint of the body that is vital for movement. The four major ligaments of the knee are anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). They play an important role in maintaining the stability of the knee.
The joint surface is covered by a smooth articular surface that allows pain-free movement in the joint. Arthritis is a general term covering numerous conditions where the joint surface or cartilage wears out. This surface can wear out for several reasons; often the definite cause is not known. Arthritis often affects the knee joint. When the articular cartilage wears out, the bone ends rub on one another and cause pain.
Patellar Dislocation/Patellofemoral Dislocation
Patellar dislocation occurs when the patella moves out of the patellofemoral groove, (trochlea) onto the bony head of the femur. If the kneecap partially comes out of the groove, it is called subluxation; if the kneecap completely comes out, it is called dislocation (luxation).
Chondral or Articular Cartilage Defects
The articular or hyaline cartilage is the tissue lining the surface of the two bones in the knee joint. Cartilage helps the bones move smoothly against each other and can withstand the weight of your body during activities such as running and jumping. Articular cartilage does not have a direct blood supply to it, so has less capacity to repair itself.
Any damage to the supporting ligaments may cause the patella to slip out of the groove either partially (subluxation) or completely (dislocation). This misalignment can damage the underlying soft structures such as muscles and ligaments that hold the kneecap in place.
Patellofemoral instability means that the patella (kneecap) moves out of its normal pattern of alignment. This malalignment can damage the underlying soft structures such as muscles and ligaments that hold the knee in place.
The kneecap or patella forms a part of the knee joint. It is present at the front of the knee, protecting the knee and providing attachment to various muscle groups of the thigh and leg. The undersurface of the kneecap and the lower end of the femur are coated with articular cartilage, which helps in smooth movement of the knee joint.
Recurrent Patella Dislocation
The patella (kneecap) is a small bone that shields your knee joint. It is present in front of your knee, on a groove called the trochlear groove that sits at the junction of the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone). Articular cartilage presents below the patella and end of the femur cushion and helps the bones glide smoothly over each other when the legs move.
Quadriceps Tendon Rupture
The quadriceps tendon is a thick tissue located at the top of the kneecap. It works together with the quadriceps muscles to allow us to straighten our leg. The quadriceps muscles are the muscles located in front of the thigh.
Patellar Tendon Rupture
The patellar tendon works together with the quadriceps muscle and the quadriceps tendon to allow your knee to straighten out. Patella tendon rupture is the rupture of the tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) to the top portion of the tibia (shinbone).
Lateral Meniscus Syndrome
Lateral meniscus syndrome is characterized by an injury caused by the tearing of the cartilage tissue or a rare case of a congenital abnormality called a discoid meniscus, which results in knee pain.
Medial Gastrocnemius Strain
A medial gastrocnemius strain (MGS), also sometimes called “tennis leg”, is an injury to the calf muscle in the back of the leg. It occurs when the calf muscle is stretched too far resulting in a partial or total tear or rupture within the muscle.
Articular Cartilage Injury
Articular or hyaline cartilage is the tissue lining the surface of the two bones in the knee joint. Cartilage helps the bones move smoothly against each other and can withstand the weight of the body during activities such as running and jumping.
Loose Bodies in the Knee
Loose bodies are fragments of detached cartilage or bone inside the knee joint. These fragments may be free floating (unstable) or may be trapped (stable) within the joint. Depending on the severity, you may have one or more loose bodies in your knee joint.
A fracture is a condition in which there is a break in the continuity of the bone. In younger individuals, these fractures are caused by high energy injuries, as from a motor vehicle accident. In older people, the most common cause is a weak and fragile bone.
Osteoarthritis also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs most often in older people. This disease affects the tissue covering the ends of bones in a joint (cartilage).In a person with osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes damaged and worn out causing pain, swelling, stiffness and restricted movement in the affected joint.
Knee Sports Injuries
Trauma is any injury caused during physical activity, motor vehicle accidents, electric shock, or other activities. Sports trauma or sports injuries refer to injuries caused while playing indoor or outdoor sports and exercising. Sports trauma can result from accidents, inadequate training, improper use of protective devices, or insufficient stretching or warm-up exercises.
Patellar tendinitis, also known as "jumper's knee", is an inflammation of the patellar tendon that connects your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. This tendon helps in extension of the lower leg.
Women and ACL Injuries
The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four major ligaments of the knee that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) and helps stabilize the knee joint. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is one of the common injuries of the knee.
Medial Meniscus Syndrome
Of the menisci within the knee, it is the medial that is more easily injured. Differences in the anatomical attachments of the medial meniscus compared to the lateral, mean that the medial meniscus becomes distorted during combined flexion and rotation movements in a manner not experienced on the lateral side.
Knee pain is a common condition affecting individuals of different age groups. It not only affects movement but also impacts your quality of life. An injury or disease of the knee joint or any structure surrounding the knee can result in knee pain. A precise diagnosis of the underlying cause is important to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Anterior Knee Pain
Anterior knee pain is characterized by chronic pain over the front and center of the knee joint. It is common in athletes, active adolescents (especially girls) and overweight individuals. Anterior knee pain refers to various conditions, which include runner's knee or patellar tendinitis, and chondromalacia of the patella.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome also called runner’s knee refers to pain under and around your kneecap. Patellofemoral pain is associated with a number of medical conditions such as anterior knee pain syndrome, patellofemoral malalignment, and chondromalacia patella.
Osgood-Schlatter disease refers to an overuse injury that occurs in the knee of growing children and adolescents. This is caused by inflammation of the tendon located below the kneecap (patellar tendon). Children and adolescents who participate in sports such as soccer, gymnastics, basketball, and distance running are at a higher risk of this disease.
Partial Arthroscopic Meniscectomy
Partial arthroscopic meniscectomy is a procedure to remove the damaged part of a meniscus in the knee joint with the help an arthroscope. The meniscus is a C-shaped disc of cartilage between your thighbone and shinbone. There are 2 menisci in each knee. They act as shock absorbers and provide stability to the joint.
Arthroscopic debridement or a clean-up is a surgical procedure performed using an arthroscope. In this procedure, the cartilage or the bone that is damaged is removed using surgical instruments and the edges of the articular cartilage that are rough will be smoothened. A washout or joint lavage is done using a special tool to spray jets of fluid to wash and suck out to remove the remaining debris around the joint.
Meniscectomy is a surgical procedure indicated in individuals with torn meniscus where the conservative treatments are a failure to relieve the pain and other symptoms. Meniscectomy is recommended based on the ability of meniscus to heal, patient’s age, health status, and activity level.
The menisci are two C-shaped cartilages that act as shock absorbers between the thigh and shin bones that articulate at the knee joint. They provide stability and lubrication to the joint as well as nutrition for the articular cartilage.
Quadriceps Tendon Repair
Quadriceps tendon is a thick tissue located at the top of the kneecap. The quadriceps tendon works together with the quadriceps muscles to allow us to straighten our leg. The quadriceps muscles are the muscles located in front of the thigh.
Physeal Sparing Reconstruction of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament
Physeal sparing reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament is a surgery to replace a torn anterior cruciate ligament or ACL, a major ligament of the knee, while minimizing damage to the growth plate (physis) present near the end of the bone.
Physical Therapy for Knee
Physical therapy is an exercise program that helps you to improve movement, relieve pain, encourage blood flow for faster healing, and restore your physical function and fitness level. It can be prescribed as an individual treatment program or combined with other treatments.
Knee arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure performed using an arthroscope, a viewing instrument, to diagnose or treat a knee problem. It is a relatively safe procedure and you will usually be discharged from the hospital on the same day of surgery.
Patellar Tendon Repair
Patella tendon rupture is the rupture of the tendon that connects the patella (kneecap) to the top portion of the tibia (shinbone). The patellar tendon works together with the quadriceps muscle and the quadriceps tendon to allow your knee to straighten out.
Medial Patellofemoral Ligament Reconstruction
The medial patellofemoral ligament is a band of tissue that extends from the femoral medial epicondyle to the superior aspect of the patella. It is a major ligament that stabilizes the patella and helps in preventing patellar subluxation (partial dislocation) or dislocation.
ACL Reconstruction of Patellar Tendon
The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the four major ligaments of the knee that connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone) and helps stabilize the knee joint. The anterior cruciate ligament prevents excessive forward movement of the lower leg bone (tibia) in relation to the thighbone (femur) as well as limits rotational movements of the knee.
ACL Reconstruction Procedure of Hamstring Tendon
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the major stabilizing ligaments in the knee. It is a strong rope-like structure located in the center of the knee running from the femur to the tibia. When this ligament tears, it does not heal on its own and often leads to the feeling of instability in the knee.
Two wedge-shaped cartilage pieces are present between the thighbone and the shinbone. These are called menisci. They stabilize the knee joint and act as shock absorbers. Partial meniscectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the torn portion of the meniscus from the knee joint.
A meniscus tear is the commonest knee injury in athletes, especially those involved in contact sports. A sudden bend or twist in your knee can cause the meniscus to tear. This is a traumatic meniscal tear. The elderly are more prone to degenerative meniscal tears as the cartilage wears out and weakens with age.
Non-Surgical Knee Treatments
The knee is a complex joint which consists of bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons that make joint movements easy and at the same time it is more susceptible to various kinds of injuries. Knee problems may arise if any of these structures get injured by overuse or suddenly during sports activities.
Physical Examination of the Knee
A complete physical examination of the knee is performed when you present to your doctor with a knee complaint. Both of your knees are examined and the results of the injured knee are compared to those of the healthy knee.
Pre-op and Post-op Knee Guidelines
Planning for your knee surgery prepares you for the operation and helps to ensure a smooth surgery and easier recovery. Here are certain pre-operative and post-operative guidelines which will help you prepare for knee surgery.
Am I a Candidate for Knee Surgery?
Arthritis of the knee can cause pain and stiffness, making regular activities such as walking and bending difficult. As arthritis progresses, conservative treatments tend to lose their efficacy and more definitive treatment should be considered.