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Problems of the Knee Joints, Tendons and Ligaments

By Lauren Treadwell ; Updated July 27, 2017

The knee is a joint that is comprised of cartilage, bone, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Knee-related problems can be extremely serious, and at the most severe can require knee-replacement surgery. For a reason that is not completely understood by scientists, knee-related problems appear to occur more often in women than in men. Problems of the knee joints, tendons and ligaments can have a number of causes, including arthritis, meniscus damage, sprains and tendonitis.

Knee Mechanics

The patella, or kneecap, is attached to the quadriceps muscle by the quadriceps tendon. The femur (thigh bone) is connected to the tibia (shin bone) by four ligaments, which are responsible for joint stability and strength. These are the medial collateral ligament, the lateral collateral ligament, the anterior cruciate ligament, and the posterior cruciate ligament. There is also a fibrous structure wrapping around the knee joint known as a knee capsule. The interior of the capsule is filled with synovium, a soft tissue.


Knee joint, tendon and ligament problems are diagnosed in a number of ways. These include reviewing a patient’s medical history and a physical examination, where a doctor tests the mobility of the knee joint and searches for pain sources by bending, rotating and pressing on the knee. Based these findings a number of other tests may be utilized, including x-rays, CAT scans, bone scans, MRI procedures, arthroscopy, biopsy, and joint aspiration therapy.


Many different types of arthritis exist, but the form that is most associated with knee problems is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the wearing away of knee cartilage which results in damaged joint bones. It can be caused by obesity or by injury. Treatments for osteoarthritis are targeted at pain relief, and include acetaminophen, aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, and in some cases cortisone injections.

Meniscus Damage

Menisci are fibrous, cartilage-like structures that connect to the front and back of the knee. They are extremely susceptible to injury and can be damaged by unnatural knee rotations. Depending on the severity of the meniscus tear, treatment can be as simple as stretching exercises or it can involve surgery. It is a very common injury among basketball players.


Sprains can refer to anterior cruciate ligament tears, caused by twisting the knee unnaturally, or to posterior cruciate ligament tears, which are often the result of impact. Sprains can also refer to medial and lateral cruciate ligament damage, which are the most common forms of ligament sprain.


Tendonitis is the inflammation of a tendon, which is caused by the repetition of a movement strenuous to joints. People who suffer from the disease feel pain where the patellar (kneecap) tendon joins the bone and often have difficulty trouble running, walking and jumping. Treatments include anti-inflammatories and stretching regiments.

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