Anatomy of the knee

By September 6, 2008 December 13th, 2011 No Comments

Today we are going to have a look at the commonly injured knee. Although the knee joint may look like a simple joint, it is one of the most complex. Moreover, as all the weight of the body (or multiples of this if you are doing explosive and/or twisting sports) goes through it, the knee is more likely to be injured than any other joint in the body. We tend to ignore our knees until something happens to them that causes pain. As the saying goes, however, prevention rather than cure is a much better way to approach your only and hard to replace means of transport. If we take good care of our knees now, before there is a problem, we can really help ourselves. In addition, if some problems with the knees develop, an exercise program can be extremely beneficial. At Diets Don’t Work we have lots of clients with knee problems, but through corrective exercises, strengthening of the surrounding musculature and in many cases lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss your knees can really feel better, be stronger and less likely to become problematic through sports or age related degeneration.

The knee is essentially made up of four bones. The femur, which is the large bone in your thigh, attaches by ligaments and a capsule to your tibia. Just below and next to the tibia is the fibula, which runs parallel to the tibia. The patella, or what we call the knee cap, rides on the knee joint as the knee bends.

When the knee moves, it does not just bend and straighten, or, as it is medically termed, flex and extend. There is also a slight rotational component in this motion. This component was recognized only within the last 50 years, which may be part of the reason people have so many unknown injuries. The knee muscles which go across the knee joint are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The quadriceps muscles are on the front of the knee, and the hamstrings are on the back of the knee. The ligaments are equally important in the knee joint because they hold the joint together. You may have heard of people who have had ligament tears. Problems with ligaments are common. In review, the bones support the knee and provide the rigid structure of the joint, the muscles move the joint, and the ligaments stabilize the joint.

The knee joint also has a structure made of cartilage, which is called the meniscus or meniscal cartilage. The meniscus is a C-shaped piece of tissue which fits into the joint between the tibia and the femur. It helps to protect the joint and allows the bones to slide freely on each other. There is also a bursa around the knee joint. A bursa is a little fluid sac that helps the muscles and tendons slide freely as the knee moves.

To function well, a person needs to have strong and flexible muscles. In addition, the meniscal cartilage, articular cartilage and ligaments must be smooth and strong. Problems occur when any of these parts of the knee joint are damaged or irritated. Unfortunately, although this cartilage is incredibly strong and resilient (like a thick slimy plastic) it does wear away, movement at the knee wearing it down just like stones on a river bed. It follows therefore, that the more weight going through the knee joint, the faster if will wear away – every stone overweight you are is an extra 7lbs (or 3.17kg) for each poor little knee. The muscles in the knee (especially the quads, those big ones on the top of the thigh) provide support and help take pressure away from this vital meniscus and the cartilage on the end of the femur (thigh bone) so strong legs, no excess weight and good nutrition are all essential. Also very beneficial is the supplement Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which can help the knee maintain the cartilage. Much debate rages about the effectiveness of these supplements but going on personal and client experience they really do work.

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