Swelling, pain or tightness in the knee area is symptomatic of a problem but how do we know if its tendon, muscle or bone related?
Knowing the anatomy of the knee might help better explain the problem to your Doctor and how to better treat for recovery. Whereas some cases require surgical intervention there is no substitute for proper rest for your knee(s) allowing adequate time to heal.
The Knee is made up of bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
4 Ligaments, 3 Bones, 2 tendons and a bunch of cartilage.
The bones of the knee are made up of the thighbone (Femur), Kneecap (patella) and shin bone (tibia).
The cartilage in and around the knee acts as a cushion or soft slippery substance to help reduce shock and make the joint function smoothly.
Ligaments hold the bones in place, 2 on the side (collateral) controlling side to side motion and 2 front and back (cruciate) controlling the forwards and backwards motion.
Tendons wrap the muscles around the bone. Your thigh muscle is connected to your knee area with the quadricep tendon, and your lower leg muscle is connected to your knee with the patellar tendon.
If you have endured a high-impact injury such as a car accident or a fall, chances are you have fractured a bone within the knee joint. This is one of the more common knee ailments. Bone density and health also play a massive factor here, which can cause more frequent fractures from smaller day to day impacts. Signs include a tender kneecap, inability to move the knee in any direction or to fully extend and an odd appearance (including swelling). Diagnosis is often through x-rays and if the fracture is serious surgery is required to place pins or wires.
Ligaments are the other tricky sprites that cause frequent problems within the knee joint – usually due to sports and impact injuries. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (the front part of the knee) is painful to most and can cause that constant burning sensation from something as little as wearing the wrong pronation shoes. In some stances a pop can also be heard when the injury occurs. The ACL tear is graded from 1 being minor to 3 requiring surgery, but in most instances rest and taking pressure off your knee helps.
To correctly diagnose an ultrasound may be required to view the softer tissue such as ligaments. To help aid in a speedy recovery place ice on or below the knee area to reduce swelling as well as taking anti-inflammatory drugs if the pain is severe and walking is a problem.
The important thing is to also ensure you are fitted for the right training shoes, because even that can have a knock on effect on your knee (just imagine a ball atop a tower, while that tower is leaning. Multiply that by hours, days and years wearing the wrong shoes and its no surprise knee problems occur).
Meniscal tears are often also diagnosed as a frequent knee problem. The menisci are the tiny cartilage wedges between the bones and develop minute tears due to overexertion or old age. If you hear a pop when the injury occurs its likely to be a meniscal tear.
Bursitis vs Tendonitis
Sometimes the lubrication (referred to as bursae) that allow smooth operation between the joints and tendons burst. The knee swells from inflammation and liquid; and kneeling becomes impossible. Rest and perhaps a course of antibiotics can resolve the issue.
Tendonitis, on the other hand is a pain in the area of the kneecap and shin; and is referred to as jumpers knee. The pain lingers and sometimes grows to instances where your knee is even just resting. changes to your lifestyle such as strengthening exercises, the correct training shoes and avoiding exercise during periods of inflammation may help heal the tear over time.
From jumpers knee to runners knee, Iliotibial band syndrome is common among long-distance runners. It is caused when the iliotibial band, which is located on the outside of the knee, rubs against the outside of the knee joint.
Seasoned runners will know its better to increase your distance slowly, causing less strain on your knees. If you have developed ITB, learn the effective stretches and massage techniques to improve and release some of the tightness.
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