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The knee is one of the most used joints in the body, whether you’re participating in a sport or just going about a daily task like heading to the shops. For that reason, the knee is one of the most injured parts of the body, with injuries being potentially incredibly painful and often preventing you from going about your daily life. That’s why it’s important you have an understanding of the knee and what can happen to it.
Anatomy of the knee
There are four main components that make up a knee - bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Bones & Tendons
The bones that form the knee joint are the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin bone), the patella (kneecap) and the fibula, which is the small bone that runs alongside the tibia. These are connected to the leg muscles by tendons, allowing the knee joint to move.
Ligaments provide stability in the knee. The anterior (ACL) and posterior (PCL) cruciate ligaments prevent the femur from moving backwards and forwards and the lateral (LCL) and medial (MCL) collateral ligaments stop the bone from moving side to side. Injuries to the ACL are usually caused by a change in direction or landing from a jump, while a blow to the front of the knee commonly causes PCL injuries.
Two pieces of C-shaped cartilage are also in the knee. Their purpose is to act as shock absorbers preventing people from feeling pain when they move. These are called the medial and lateral menisci. Fluid sacs, known as bursae, also help with smooth movement.
About knee injuries
There are a number of reasons for a knee injury to occur, including as a result of an accident such as a slip, trip or fall, while playing a sport or through a degenerative condition.
Accidents are usually caused by another person’s negligence or through your own fault (i.e. not looking where you are walking), while sporting injuries may have been as result of overuse or by a fall or bad tackle, depending on the severity, both cause knee injuries you can recover from. Degenerative conditions, on the other hand, are those illnesses we have little control over and are often incurable and require consistent management or surgery to reduce the symptoms.
Types of knee injuries
Below you will find the most common type of knee injuries - click to read more about each condition:
- Knee pain
- Jumper’s knee, or patella tendonitis
- Runner’s knee, iliotibial band friction syndrome
- Anterior knee pain, or patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Loose bone fragments, or osteochondritis dissecans
- Osgood Schlatter’s disease
- Infrapatellar fat pad impingement
- Meniscal tear
- Anterior cruciate ligament tear
- Posterior cruciate ligament tear
- Medial collateral ligament tear
- Lateral collateral ligament tear
What are my options?
Depending on the type of knee injury you have suffered a doctor will decide which treatment is best for as full a recovery as possible.
If you have suffered a minor injury, such as a sprain, and not recovered after a couple of days, then you may be assigned a physiotherapist to help you strengthen the knee through stretches and exercises. For more information on knee strengthening exercises, click here.
Physiotherapy helps you return to your daily routine while minimising the chance of a repeat injury as there tends to be weakness following an injury.
Knee bracing is another popular form of conservative treatment for the management of knee injuries and typically used in conjunction with other options rather than just in isolation.
In general a knee brace can offer the following:
- Compression: Helping to manage inflammation (swelling) following which can offer pain relieving qualities and help you remain active for longer. These braces are normally sleeve based.
- Stability: Following ligament damage there may be a degree of instability in the joint i.e. you can't put your full weight on the affected knee. A knee brace designed for stability helps you remain active. These types of braces are normally manufactured from a rigid material and used in extreme sports to offer both stability and protection such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, motocross.
- Compression & Stability: A knee brace offering both compression and stability will normally take the form of a hinged brace with straps. The sleeve of the brace offers compression in the management of inflammation whilst the straps work to hold the knee and prevent movements which would stretch the damaged ligament.
- Immobilisation: Following surgery it may be necessary to fully immobilise the joint for a period of time until the initial wounds heal, in which case an immobilising knee brace may be used to stop the patient from injuring themselves during that initial recovery period.
- Offloading / Unloading: A good osteoarthritis brace will redistribute load from the damaged part of the knee to another area of the knee which is able to bear the load, hence the name Unloader Knee Brace.
Before buying a knee brace we would always recommend obtaining a professional diagnosis as each brace is different and are designed to manage specific conditions. As a worse case scenario wearing the wrong knee brace for your injury could actually do more harm than good.
If you are ever unsure as to which brace you should buy then we would advise you to speak with a clinical professional or if you're buying online then pick up the phone and speak to someone in Customer Services.
Surgery is not always the answer and is dependent on the type of knee injury you have sustained. It is usually suggested for the most severe injuries and conditions where the knee will not be able to recover naturally. For example, if a ligament has ruptured or you have a degenerative condition.
Surgical options include:
If you are unable to be out of action for some time, certain injuries and degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis can be treated with bracing and physiotherapy if caught early enough. Your doctor will discuss all of the options available to you following diagnosis.
If you are unable to make a full recovery naturally, you may be advised to get a knee brace. Braces and supports are a temporary measure designed to add protection or support during your recovery, reducing the chance of further injury. The type of injury you have suffered will decide which brace is suitable, as each one is designed to manage different injuries and conditions. You may require one that offers compression or stability or one that’s designed to provide both. Read more about bracing here.
Compression braces are designed to reduce swelling and inflammation while offering pain relief, which can help you to stay active for longer. Stability braces reduce the movement of the knee and are usually suggested for ligament damage as they minimise the risk of the knee moving beyond its means.
If you are unsure of which brace is suitable, you should speak to your doctor or to a clinician.
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