The knee seems to be the one joint that acts up no matter what we do to it. It will either hurt, swell up or feel tight. So, what’s really at the root of all that discomfort? Is there anything that we can do to help alleviate that?
There are many options for helping you with the knee pain, tightness or discomfort that you may be experiencing. But first we have to understand what it is that makes up the knee, this way we can create a calculated approach to fixing whatever the ailment may be.
The knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. Because of this, the knee is one of the most common reasons for why people visit the doctor. So, what makes up the knee?
The Knee Structure
The knee is where the thighbone or Femur meets the shin bones that includes the tibia and fibula. The actual knee is made up of ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and of course the knee cap, which is known as the Patella.
Ligaments are a short band of tough, flexible, fibrous connective tissue. They can connect two bones, cartilage, or they may hold together a joint. In the case of the knee there are two different sets of ligaments that perform multiple tasks. The two sides of the knee are held in place by two ligaments: the Medial Collateral Ligament and the Lateral Collateral Ligament. These two ligaments prevent the femur from sliding side to side. Injury to these ligaments are very common among athletes. For example, when you hear that a basketball or football player tore their MCL or LCL, this is what they are talking about.
Then you have two ligaments that are within the knee. These are the Anterior Cruciate Ligament(ACL) and the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). They cross each other creating an “X” with the ACL in front of the PCL. The job of both is to control the forward and backward movement of the knee. An ACL tear is another very common injury among athletes. All four of these ligaments are important to keep a stable and properly functioning knee.
Articular Cartilage is a specialized kind of tissue that allows the knee bones to glide smoothly across each other. For example, when you bend and straighten your leg this cartilage makes that a smooth, continuous movement. Cartilage itself is a firm, whitish, flexible connective tissue that can be found in various forms. Some of the most common places cartilage is found is in the outer part of the ear, and in the respiratory tract. When it comes to the knee you can find the cartilage at the ends of the femur, tibia, and the back of the patella or kneecap.
Tendons are special tissue that are flexible, inelastic cords of strong fibrous collagen tissue. This specialized tissue connects muscles to bones. In the case of the knee the quadriceps tendon connects muscles in front of the thigh to the kneecap (patella). On the other end of the kneecap a tendon then connects to the shinbone tendon. Without these tendons, muscle and bone would not be able to function well together, because tendons are the glue that holds them together.
The Meniscus is a tough rubbery tissue that helps to cushion and stabilize the knee joint. The meniscal cartilage is a two-wedge shaped tissue that works as the knees shock absorbers. All of the impact that your knee takes daily, is absorbed by the meniscus. It is located between the femur and tibia. Growing up as an athlete I often heard people discussing having a torn knee cartilage and when I did, I knew that most of the time they were referring to the meniscus.
Our knees are a vital part of our everyday life. This is a joint that is worked like no other. From sitting in a chair to squatting to running, the knee joint is always in constant motion. It is important that we give this joint attention, so that we can keep it functioning to the best of its ability. Without healthy knees walking can become an arduous task that can eventually lead to not wanting to walk, period. Understanding the makeup of the knee and all of its intricacies will establish a foundation for knowing when it needs maintenance or professional help.
In the following post, I will talk about common knee conditions and possible remedies that could help alleviate some of that pain or discomfort.
If you like what you read share this with a friend or family member that may be having knee pain or discomfort.
All the best