What are Loose Bodies?
Loose bodies in the knee is a condition that results when a part of the knee joint is broken and loose within the body. The broken piece within the knee joint can be cartilage, bone or some other substance that is floating freely within the synovial fluid in the joint and can cause chronic knee pain. Patients may feel a small grinding or rough feeling somewhere in the knee when moving that is painful and bothersome. The size of a loose body can range from very small to larger up to a few millimeters in length. Loose bodies are generally quite small but in rare instances, have been found to be exceptionally large. The size of a loose body will not determine the amount of pain that you are experiencing. A very small loose body can cause extreme amounts of pain. With this condition, you may have only one loose body in the joint or there may be multiple at the same time.
What can cause a Loose Body in the knee?
A loose bodies diagnosis occurs when a piece of cartilage or bone breaks off and is now floating loose within the joint. The knee joint is what is called a synovial joint. This means that the entire joint is encased in a capsule with an outer and inner membrane. The inner membrane is called the synovium. It is filled with a substance called synovial fluid that helps to lubricate the joint and aid in smooth motion. The synovial fluid is the part of the joint where a loose body will take up residence, hindering smooth motion and causing pain. With a diagnosis of loose bodies within the joint, symptoms that you may experience are comparable to a chipped piece of bone instead of a broken bone injury. For example, if a portion of the patella or kneecap becomes loose and eventually chips off that is a form of loose bodies knee pain. Loose bodies are usually caused by:
- A hard hit to the knee from a trauma to the knee joint, this is usually a result of high impact sports or a car accident
- Osteoarthritis of the joint, which is a normal wear and tear over time
- Benign tumors that put excessive stress on the knee, such as in the case of the rare disorder known as Synovial chondromatosis
- Degenerative joint diseases and other inflammatory conditions of the knee that can affect the cartilage and result in fibrinous loose bodies
Anything that puts enough pressure on the knee joint so that some piece within the joint breaks, can be a possible cause of loose bodies diagnosis in the knee.
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Symptoms of a Knee Loose Body
Not only will patients have the possibility of experiencing chronic knee pain from loose body symptoms, but they will be able to feel this loose piece of bone or cartilage causing great discomfort. A commonly reported symptom is a locked-up sensation of the knee. At first, the loose piece may not be painful. It may be more frustrating to patients because of the “rock in your shoe” feeling and other possible symptoms such as:
- Chronic or intermittent knee pain
- Swelling, redness, and warmth of the knee
- Constant feeling of movement within the knee joint
- A grinding sensation when walking or otherwise moving the joint known as ‘crepitus’
- A ‘locked up’ feeling in the knee when trying to walk or stand up
- A significant loss of range of motion in the joint. This may result when attempting to move the joint actively and/or passively.
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How do I Prevent Loose Bodies?
Since the loose bodies diagnosis consists of a piece of cartilage or bone breaking off, it is important to protect your knees and strengthen them. The stronger that a knee and its surrounding structures are, the less of a chance you have of experiencing loose body fragments in the knee. Chronic knee pain may result any time that an excessive amount of pressure is placed on the knee. There are preventative measures that you can take in order to lessen the risk of tears and broken pieces of cartilage or bone in the knee with. These include:
- Exercise that strengthens muscles and surrounding structures of and around the knee
- A well-balanced diet to strengthen bones
- Protective knee pads and gear for athletes