Understanding Knee Anatomy: Cartilage, Ligaments and Tendons
chronic knee pain

Understanding Knee Anatomy

The knee is one of the most important joints in the body. The knee and every other joint work like a machine. There are connective pieces that work together that make sure the knee is protected and functioning properly. Each joint has a similar anatomy, but the knees are extremely valuable since they carry the majority of the body weight while walking and standing. Three tissue groups that hold the knee together include cartilage, ligaments and tendons.

The cartilage, ligaments and tendons all have a specific niche. Each of these tissue groups is responsible for the following:

• Cartilage- rests between bones and act as protection
• Ligaments- hold bones together with flexible strands and suspension
• Tendons- strong connection that holds bones to muscles

Knee Cartilage

Knee cartilage is a soft layer between the bones that support the joint. During exercise and physical activity, the cartilage protects the bones whenever a person jumps, lands, runs or any other motion that works the knees. Cartilage surrounds each end of a bone like patella, femur and tibia. Unfortunately, over time, the cartilage may begin to wear down and disappear. The overuse of the joint leads to chronic pain once the cartilage thins. The bones in the knee may start to rub together whenever a person walks or even stands up. The constant rubbing leads to arthritis and synovitis knee pain.

Knee Ligaments

The knee ligaments act as a suspension system for holding various bones together. The entire skeleton is held together by ligaments throughout the body. For example, with the knee, there are four major ligaments. These ligaments are the ACL, LCL, MCL and PCL. Each ligament has a strong connection between the femur, tibia or patella. The ligaments are made of soft tissue so they are susceptible to tearing and rips. A ligament tear can lead to chronic knee pain and other conditions like a total knee dislocation. The knee ligaments are flexible, but an overextension will cause the tissue to eventually tear.

Knee Tendons

Tendons are the connection between bones and muscles. The muscles rest up against the bones will the tendons preserve this connection. Around the knee, there are two types of tendons. The patella tendons surround the kneecap and the quadriceps tendons are toward the back of the knee and leg. Like the knee ligaments, the knee tendons can also break and tear. Muscle can completely fall off the bone when there is a tendon rupture or osteochondral defect. A defect or rupture of knee tendons may be difficult to heal naturally.