The knee is a powerful and complex joint. Indeed, our knees are used when we walk, run, jump, etc. These actions require the flexion of the knee and the activation of the muscles found within this joint. The knees also play an important role in stabilizing our posture. As they are frequently called upon and support the weight of our body when we stand and move around, knee pain is common and afflicts many people.
We address this important issue in the following article. We discuss the anatomy of the knee and the common causes of pain in this joint.
The knee is made up of large muscles and leg bones, including the femur, which is the largest bone in the entire human body. These important structures are connected by tendons and ligaments, which participate in the movement of the knees. There are also certain joint structures that allow the joint to function and slide properly.
Here are the main anatomical components of the knee:
The femur, the tibia, the fibula, and the patella are the 4 bones that come together to make up the knee.
Several muscles can be found within the knee, including the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the thigh abductor muscles, and the twin calf muscles.
Tendons are bands of fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones. They thereby allow energy to be transmitted from the muscle to the bone to allow the joint to move. Two tendons can be found within the knee: one connects the patella to the quadriceps, while the other connects the patella to the tibia.
Ligaments connect bones within the same joint in order to promote the stability of the joint. Within the knee, we find the anterior cruciate ligament, the posterior cruciate ligament, and the two lateral ligaments.
Two menisci can be found within the knee. These are small cartilaginous cushions that allow pressure to be distributed. Along with the ligaments, they ensure the stability of the joint.
Other joint structures
As the knee is a mobile joint, there are important joint structures in its centre that help ensure that the joint slides comfortably. Among these are the cartilage and the synovial cavity.
The patella, also known as the kneecap, is the small round bone found on the front of the knee. At the top, it is attached by tendons to the front thigh muscle, called the quadriceps, and at the bottom, it is connected to the tibia. Despite its small size, the patella plays key roles in the functioning of the knee. In particular, it ensures its protection and stability. It also contributes to the strength of the quadriceps during leg movements involving the latter.
Given the numerous anatomical structures that make up the knee, the causes of pain in this joint are also multiple. Here are some common causes:
A sprain is usually related to a false movement or a shock. This causes damage to one or more ligaments that make up the affected joint. The degree of the sprain is classified (1-2-3) according to the extent of the damage to the ligament—namely, whether it is simply stretched, partially torn, or completely torn.
This is an inflammation of one or more tendons, which is often caused by overuse of the knee. This is a common type of injury in athletes. Tendinitis causes pain, especially when bending the knee, but this can become significant and even appear when the joint is at rest.
This is an inflammation of the bursae, small pockets of fluid that separate bones from other joint structures, such as tendons and ligaments. Bursitis is generally caused by unusual or excessive use of the joint.
This is a common cause of knee pain. It is caused by trauma or biomechanical dysfunction of the joint. The patella becomes misaligned, and pain can be felt on the front of the knee and around the patella. This can be exacerbated by an athletic practice or movements involving the knee, such as climbing stairs.
Osteoarthritis of the knee
Also known as “gonarthrosis,” this is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage, which absorbs the significant pressure undergone by this joint. When the cartilage gets worn out, the ends of the bones that make up the knee will rub against each other, which can cause significant discomfort and pain. Unfortunately, osteoarthritis of the knee is common as we age, since the body gradually loses its ability to regenerate its tissues, including cartilage.
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