Why Is My Knee Buckling?
A common question asked by patients is why their knees are buckling. There are many reasons for this condition but the most commonly discussed reason is from repetitive stress injuries (RSI). RSI refers to any type of repetitive strain injury or overuse injury that causes pain and weakness in the joints. These types of injuries include sports such as football, baseball, soccer, hockey and even military combat. Many of these athletes may have been doing it since childhood without realizing it.
The knee joint is one of the most complex joints in the body. It contains several ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones which together form a complete unit called a musculoskeletal system. The knee consists of three main parts: the tibia (shin bone), femur (thighbone) and patella (kneecap). The patella is the kneecap. When the kneecap moves forward or backward, it affects how much force your leg can exert on an object.
A person’s ability to jump depends upon how well they control their knee and ankle during landing. If the patella doesn’t move properly, jumping ability will suffer.
Knee buckling occurs when there is a tear in one of these layers of connective tissue between the tibia and femur. The medical term for this condition is a medial meniscus tear. There are a few different reasons why knee buckling occurs. These include:
A meniscus is a c-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a joint cushion between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia). It also helps to distribute body weight and reduce friction between the bones. Both menisci are attached by strong fibers to these bones. Pain often begins with a torn meniscus.
Arthritis refers to the inflammation of cartilage and the wearing down or destruction of joints. It commonly affects older people and the most common areas are in the spine, hips, knees and hands. Although it can cause a person to lose all movement in the affected part, it more commonly causes pain and stiffness.
Common Symptoms of Knee Buckling
Knee buckling is a sign that something is wrong and immediate medical attention should be sought. The sooner it is treated, the better your recovery will be. It can occur suddenly or develop over time. You may experience any or all of the following symptoms:
Pain in one or both knees:
If you don’t feel the pain during physical activity, you may feel it immediately after. Sometimes pain is located only when you put weight on the knee. Knee buckling is often a sign of torn meniscus. There are two menisci in each knee. One is triangular and is located between the thigh (femur) and shin (tibia) bones.
The other, smaller one is shaped more like an oyster and is between the shin bone and knee cap (patella).
Knee buckling is caused by damage to the menisci. This can be either a tear in the inner lining or outer layer of the meniscus. Both thin layers of cartilage act as shock absorbers between the shin and thigh bones. Tears in the meniscus commonly happen during physical activity, such as running, jumping or twisting.
If you have knee pain and knee buckling, you may have a torn meniscus. A torn meniscus may also cause swelling, which can further damage the knee cartilage leading to more pain.
Knee Buckling Treatment
The treatment for buckling knees depends on the underlying cause or the severity of the condition. Resting, icing and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs are often the first steps in treating knee buckling. If these measures fail to bring relief or the knee buckling is caused by a more serious condition, more intensive treatments are necessary.
In some cases, knee buckling can be treated with minor surgery. The torn meniscus may be removed and the knee realigned. If there is too much damage, a knee replacement may be necessary. During this surgery, the surgeon removes damaged cartilage and bone and replaces them with an artificial joint. If you have knee pain or knee buckling, see your physician as soon as possible and ask about treatments that are right for you.
Preventing Knee Buckling
Knee buckling is a symptom of an underlying condition or injury. The best way to prevent it from happening is to avoid over doing it during physical activity and to avoid activities that put too much stress on your knees. If you do experience knee pain after physical activity, rest the knee as soon as possible to give it time to heal. Ice the knee for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Also, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can help reduce pain and swelling.
When your knee has sufficiently healed, begin a physical therapy program to improve strength, flexibility and overall knee health.
If you have knee buckling with no other symptoms, your physician may recommend waiting to see if the problem goes away on its own. If the knee buckling continues for more than 6 weeks after physical activity, however, it is important to see your physician for an exam.
Knee pain is a common condition that affects the vast majority of people at some point in their lives, especially as we age. One of the most common causes of knee pain is known as patellofemor pain syndrome, or PFS for short. It is a condition that affects the knee, specifically the kneecap and the tissue surrounding it. There are several factors that can lead to patellofemor pain syndrome, but there are also several ways to treat and prevent this painful condition.
Patellofemor Pain Syndrome (PFPS)
Knee pain is not always the result of a serious injury or medical condition. In many cases, knee pain is caused by a condition known as patellofemor pain syndrome, or PFPS for short. PFPS is characterized by small injuries to the kneecap and tissue surrounding it. Runners are especially prone to this type of knee pain. Activities such as jumping and squatting can cause the patella to move out of place, resulting in a misalignment of the kneecap.
This can cause the soft tissue on either side of the patella to become inflamed due to friction. In addition to the pain that results from kneecap misalignment, knee PFPS can also cause grinding sensations in the knee joint.
Kneecap pain is one of the primary symptoms of patellofemor pain syndrome. In many cases, knee buckling is a common symptom of kneecap pain. This happens when the kneecap pops in and out of place while walking or during physical activity. Along with kneecap pain and knee buckling, other symptoms of PFPS include swelling, tenderness, and a grinding sensation in the knee joint.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone who participates in frequent repetitive squatting or jumping activities can suffer from knee pain. Runners are especially at risk for PFPS. The constant up and down motion of running places a great deal of stress on the knees. This repetitive strain combined with a poor training technique can lead to knee pain and other overuse injuries in runners. Other types of athletes who are susceptible to patellofemor pain syndrome include basketball and volleyball players as well as anyone else involved in jumping or squatting activity.
What Causes It?
As mentioned above, patellofemor pain syndrome is caused by repeated movements that put pressure on the knees. While participating in physical activity, your kneecap moves in and out of place as your quadriceps muscles contract and relax. If you are not moving your entire leg with each step while running or walking then the pressure on the kneecap becomes uneven, which can put strain on the knee. The constant up and down motion of running or other types of jumping activities can cause repeated strain on the knees.
Ways to Prevent It
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to prevent knee injuries. First and foremost, warming up before physical activity is very important. Begin with a slow five minute walk to gradually increase blood flow to your muscles followed by some simple stretching exercises. Before beginning any other type of physical activity, make sure that you warm up thoroughly. Jogging in place, jumping jacks, and leg swings are all great exercises to get the blood flowing to your muscles.
Stretching after physical activity is also important. If you feel that your muscles are tight, spend a few minutes stretching them out to prevent injuries and soreness later on.
Second, proper training technique can go a long way in preventing knee pain and other injuries. If you are a runner, learn how to land on your mid-foot rather than your heel. When jumping or squatting down, try to keep your spine straight and bend at the knees and hips rather than rounding your back. Also, do not bounce up and down when you run. Jogging in place is okay, but make sure that you spend most of your time with your body in motion rather than pausing and hesitating while airborne.
If you suffer from knee pain, consider wearing knee sleeves or pads to provide some extra cushioning and protection for your kneecaps. These are thin yet durable pieces of neoprene that slide easily over your knees to help alleviate the pain. If you find that wearing pads is making your knees feel too hot and sweaty, try cutting small holes for ventilation.
Finally, it is very important to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knees. If you do not work these muscles, they will become weak and this can cause a chain reaction of pain and injury to surrounding joints. Some great exercises for your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals include the wall sit, kneeling squats, step-ups, lunges, and leg extensions. Be sure to hold each position at least 30 seconds to get the most out of your workout.
More ways to help you prevent knee injuries are listed below.
Purchase a foam roller to roll out your leg muscles.
Perform exercises that strengthen the muscles around your knees.
Wear knee pads when running or playing sports to prevent injury.
Wear proper fitting athletic shoes with good arch and heel support.
Always stretch before and after exercise.
Spray coolant on your leg muscles with ICE to help with swelling and pain.
Knee pain is a common complaint among athletes and an important one to take seriously. When you treat your knees right with the right stretching, exercise, and protective gear, they will be less susceptible to injuries and worn-out joints that can cause you to have knee replacement surgery later in life. If you don’t take care of your knees now, you probably will in the future.
Sources & references used in this article:
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A damage-controlled structure using buckling-restrained knee braces by M Iwata, M Fujita – Structural engineering international, 2011 – Taylor & Francis
Femoral nerve palsy following iliacus hematoma by JM Weiss, V Tolo – Orthopedics, 2008 – healio.com
Seismic performance evaluation of long-span conventional moment frames and buckling-restrained knee-braced truss moment frames by TY Yang, Y Li, SC Goel – Journal of Structural Engineering, 2016 – ascelibrary.org