The knee is made up of a complex of three joints – the articulation between the tibia (shin bone) and femur (thigh bone), the femur and the patellar (knee cap), and the tibia and fibular (long bone on the outer side of your shin). Generally speaking though, people commonly refer to the knee joint as the joint between your thigh bone (femur) and your shin bone (tibia). At the front of the knee is the patellofemoral joint, which is where the knee cap (patella) runs in a groove on the thigh bone. The third joint is a much smaller joint between the outside shin bone (fibula) and the main shin bone (tibia).
The ends of the thigh, shin bones and underside of the knee cap are covered with articular cartilage which provides a smooth surface for movement. Inside the knee joints are 2 shock absorbing discs called meniscus which provide additional cushioning and help support the joint. These are also sometimes referred to simply as cartilage, though they are technically a little different from articular cartilage which lines the ends of the bones. The knee joint is supported by strong ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL).
Knee pain has a wide variety of causes. Knee injuries are very common in most sports, but knee pain can also occur without a direct injury. It is very important that the cause if your knee pain is diagnosed correctly so that the best course of treatment is recommended.
Some common areas which cause pain in the knee include:
- Patellofemoral joint pain (often known as anterior knee pain)
- Ligament strain or rupture (this is a common sporting injury and most commonly affects the ACL and MCL)
- Meniscus injury or degenerative problems
- Muscle or tendon strain
- ITB friction syndrome (runner’s knee)
- Patellar tendinopathy (jumper’s knee)
The physiotherapist will complete a thorough assessment of your knee to ascertain the cause of your symptoms and recommend a treatment plan accordingly. You may be recommended to seek an x-ray or MRI scan of your knee if required.