“Head and shoulders, knees and toes” …remember singing that silly song from when you were young? At the part when you bend down to touch your knees, they may look a bit skinned or bruised from playing hard as a kid. As we grow our activities intensify and our knee injuries often require more than just a bandage and a kiss from mom. After all, the knee is a complex joint with many components, which makes it prone to a wide range of injuries.
Ligaments are what hold your bones together and keep your knee stable.
Collateral ligaments are found on the sides of your knees. Damage is a result of the knee being forced sideways and will affect sideways motion as well as your ability to brace against unusual or sudden movements.
Cruciate ligaments are inside your knee. They are criss-crossed in both the front and the back and if injured, create instability with the knee’s back and forth motion.
Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is most often seen in athletes who participate in sports like soccer, basketball, and football. Changing direction quickly or landing incorrectly can tear the ACL, and many times can cause additional damage to other parts of the knee.
A blow to the front of the knee while it’s bent can result in partial tears to the posterior cruciate ligament.
Meniscal cartilage is strong, rubbery, and acts as a shock absorber for your knee joint. Tears in this cartilage affect stability and cushion between the tibia and femur bones.
Meniscal tears happen most often during sports that involve twisting, pivoting, changing direction, or being tackled. Menisci weaken with age, so tears may also occur simply as a result of getting older or having arthritis.
When the articular cartilage that covers the knee joint gradually wears away, the joint can no longer move easily or without pain. This is called osteoarthritis and is seen mostly in older adults, as the condition typically progresses over many years. Other factors include previous injury, family history, and being overweight.
The iliotobial (IT) band is made up of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh. It provides the knee with stability and helps prevent it from becoming dislocated. However, it can also be what causes knee discomfort when tight. With IT band syndrome, every time the knee is bent, the band rubs against bone. This is particularly common in cyclists and runners.
Patella tendinitis occurs when the patellar tendon is weakened by inflammation. This can result in small tears in the tendon. Although it is mostly seen in runners, it is sometimes referred to as jumper’s knee, as it also occurs in athletes who jump a lot, such as basketball and volleyball players.
With patellar subluxation, the patella, or kneecap, slips in and out of the socket. This dislocation can be painful, and patients may experience popping or clicking when straightening their leg.
Patella femoral syndrome is characterized by pain in the front of the knee brought on by cartilage damage under the kneecap. This can be caused by overuse, excess weight, and improper alignment. Pain is experienced mainly upon bending the knees, and patients may feel a grinding sensation and occasional buckling of the knee.
Some knee injuries are so severe that surgical procedures must be performed before physical therapy can start. If an extreme amount of damage leaves the knee irreparable, total knee replacement surgery will be performed. Damaged bone and tissue are removed and replaced with metal and plastic implants that recreate the joint in order to reestablish movement.
We Know Knees!
Treatment for an injured knee varies according to type and severity, and ranges from rest, ice, strengthening, stretching and medication to surgery. In all cases, physical therapy is essential to restoring function and quality of life.
Knee injuries can be debilitating and affect your lifestyle immensely. Recovery takes time and patience, but physical therapy can help you stop singing the blues and start whistling “zippity-doo-da” before you know it. Call (303) 805-5156, or visit Castle Pines Physical Therapy in Castle Pines, CO. Talk to Dr. Jennifer Molner about starting your rehabilitation process today.
Photo credit: Ambro via freedigitalphotos.net