Your knee is the largest weight-bearing joint in your body and also one of the most easily injured. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), in 2003 patients made some 19.4 million visits to physicians' offices because of knee problems. It was the most common reason for visiting an orthopedic surgeon.
The knee is a complex joint with many parts, making it vulnerable to a variety of injuries. Your knee is made up of the lower end of the thighbone (femur), which rotates on the upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and the knee cap (patella), which slides in a groove on the end of the femur.
The knee also contains large ligaments that help control motion by connecting bones and stabilize the knee by bracing the joint against abnormal types of motion. Twisting injuries can lead to tears in these ligaments. Two of the major ligaments found in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the medial collateral ligament (MCL), are often injured in sports.
Another important part of the knee is the meniscus, a wedge of soft cartilage between the femur and tibia that cushions the knee and helps it absorb shock during motion. The meniscus can be torn as a result of a twisting injury or from wear and tear.
The AAOS recommends seeking treatment as soon as possible for a knee injury, especially if you:
- Hear a popping noise and feel your knee give out at the time of injury
- Have severe pain
- Cannot move the knee
- Begin limping
- Have swelling at the injury site
A common method used to treat mild knee injuries is the "RICE" method:
- Rest the knee by staying off of it or walking only with crutches
- Ice it to control swelling
- Compress the injured knee with elastic bandages applied snugly but loosely enough so it does not cause pain
- Elevate the knee