In 2003, patients made approximately 19.4 million visits to physicians' offices because of knee problems. It was the most common reason for visiting an orthopaedic surgeon.
The knee is a complex joint with many components, making it vulnerable to a variety of injuries. Many knee injuries can be successfully treated without surgery, while other types of knee pain may require surgery to correct. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers facts and information about knee pain and common knee injuries.
The Anatomy of the Knee
The knee is made up of three major parts, the bottom of the thighbone (called the femur), the top of the shinbone (called the tibia) and the knee cap (called the patella). The knee cap slides in a groove on the end of the thighbone and all three parts are held together by four major ligaments. These ligaments control the motion of the knee and help hold it in place. The meniscus, a type of soft cartilage, helps absob shock and cushion the knee.
Types of Knee Injuries
Athletes are among the most common types of individuals to experience knee pain, injuries and other knee problems. Many times, these knee problems are a result of torn ligaments in the knee. Sports related injuries most often occur in three of the four ligaments in the knee, the anterior cruciate liagment (called the ACL), the medial collateral ligament (called the MCL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (called the PCL).
ACL injuries occur by quickly changing directions, slowing down while running and landing from a jump. Football and basketball players, skiers and athletes who wear cleats are all more susceptible to torn ACL's.
MCL injuries occur most often in contact sports, like soccer, football and rugby. A torn or injured MCL is usually the result of a blow or hit to the outside of the knee.
PCL injuries are usually the result of a blow or hit to the frontside of the knee. A torn or injured PCL can also occur by making a misstep while running or playing a sport.
In addition to torn and injured ligaments, knee injuries can also be caused by tearing the meniscus, or the cartilage of the knee. Contact sports or other athletic activities that involve tackling, cutting, quick pivoting and decelerating can cause tears in the meniscus.
Knee Pain & Injury Treatment
A variety of methods are used by doctor and orthopedic surgeouns to treat knee problems and injuries. The most common method of treatment for mild or moderate knee injuries is knows as RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If you are experiencing knee pain or think you may have a knee injury, follow the RICE formula. Rest your knee by walking with crutches or remaining seated. Use ice to minimize swelling and pain. Compress your knee by wrapping it with an elastic bandage, making sure not to wrap it too tightly. And finally, remember to elevate your knee.
Call your orthopedic doctor or seek treatment if you think you have a knee injury, or if you have any of the following symptoms:
- You have severe knee pain
- Your knee gives out and/or you hear a popping noise
- You cannot move or bend your knee
- Your knee is swollen and/or bruised
- You cannot walk without limping
For more information about knee pain, knee injuries and other types of common knee problems, visit SaveYourKnees.org.