The knee joint is the largest joint in the body. Its size, flexibility and complexity make it susceptible to injuries, the most common of which are fractures, sprains, dislocations and soft tissue tears. Here are some common knee injuries and treatments.
Symptoms of Knee Injuries
Although symptoms may vary depending on the injury, common symptoms include pain, especially with movement; instability of the knee; clicking, popping or grinding noises and swelling and redness. In some cases, such as a fracture or dislocation, the knee will be out of alignment.
The ends of the tibia and femur can be fractured, but the most common knee bone fracture is the patella or kneecap. If the bone of the patella is still in place, a cast or splint is the usual treatment. For most fractures of these three bones, however, surgery is required. Weight bearing is restricted during healing.
The patella, tibia or femur can be forced out of place (dislocated) by trauma. Extremely painful, a dislocated joint must be returned to the normal position by manual manipulation as soon as possible. Occasionally, surgery is required.
Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments support the front and back of the knee. They can be stretched, partially or completely torn. For sprains of these ligaments, rest, a splint or brace and physical therapy is the usual treatment. A torn cruciate ligament nearly always requires surgery.
Collateral Ligament Injuries
Although these injuries are less common than other knee ligament injuries, the collateral ligaments can be damaged by a blow on the side of the knee. Sprains and strains are usually treated with ice, a brace or splint and physical therapy. If the knee is unstable or the ligament is torn, surgery is the usual treatment.
The meniscus (there are two in the knee) is a piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber. It can be torn if the knee is twisted suddenly. If the tear is small and on the outside of the cartilage, rest and physical therapy may be all that’s necessary for healing. More severe tears require surgery.
Tendons in the thigh and those that anchor the patella can be stretched or torn by falls or direct force. Ice, rest and time may allow the tendon to heal on its own if the tear is not too serious. However, a more serious or complete tears usually requires surgery.
Knee injuries can seriously affect mobility and may take a long time to heal. Proper treatment is very important. If you think you have a knee injury, consult an orthopedic surgeon.