Our knees bear the brunt of just about everything we do, but how often do we think about them? Here are five facts you need about your knees!
- The knee is the biggest and most complex joint in the body. The knee is made up of four bones: the femur (thigh), tibia (shin), and patella (kneecap). The fourth is the fibula (smaller shin bone), which isn’t part of the joint functioning, but “provides a surface for important muscles and ligaments to attach to.” And there are a lot of ligaments there–fourteen in total that help stabilize the knee, including the ones known well to athletes and sports fans: the anterior cruciate (ACL) and medial collateral (MCL). There is also synovial fluid to lubricate the knee and several bursas, or fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction. The surrounding muscles and nerves also factor into the knee’s functioning as does the meniscus. More on that in the next point.
- The knee has its own shock absorbers. The meniscus is a “fibro-cartilaginous structure” that acts as a shock absorber for the knee. There are two menisci in each knee–the medial and lateral. Meniscus tears are a common injury and result from forced twists or rotations, for example, sudden turns, squats, or stops and starts in sports like soccer and football. The meniscus weakens with age, so injuries are more likely in older people, but children are still vulnerable. In fact, meniscus injuries may be on the rise in children for two main reasons: they are starting competitive sports at increasingly earlier ages and tend to specialize in a single sport at a young age, which means repetitive motion and stress on the same joints.
- The pressure on knees can be intense. Compressive loads can be 1 to 2 times body weight while walking, and 3 to 4 times body weight while running. Going up and down stairs can increase the load even more. The repeated strain on the knee is one reason it can be vulnerable to injury in athletes and non-athletes alike.
- Kneecaps are fascinating! The kneecap, or patella, is not fully formed when we are born. It is present, but is more like cartilage than bone. It becomes bone at about age 5 or 6 and continues to harden until adolescence. It is a sesamoid bone, which means it forms within a tendon. Its function is to protect the tendon from wear and tear. Research has shown that, like fingerprints, no two kneecaps are the same. In fact, one researcher is looking into the use of MRIs to examine kneecaps for identity at airports, since they cannot be “faked” like passports.
- You need to be kind to your knees. Because there is so much movement and friction in the knee, injuries and chronic pain are very common. Athlete or not, it pays to take care of your knees. Make sure you are a healthy weight: every pound of weight you lose removes 4 pounds of pressure from your knees. As far as exercise, here are a few basic guidelines to follow: wear protective equipment when necessary; warm up with light aerobic exercise to loosen ligaments before you begin any stretching exercise; keep a strong core to ensure you can maintain balance in all activities; and try low-impact activities if your knees bother you. If you think you’ve strained or injured your knee, seek medical help right away. The more you delay, the more chance there is for an injury to worsen.
Want to learn more about how the knee works? This video offers a great overview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=293&v=_q-Jxj5sT0g
The references and information on this website are intended to provide general information to the reader. The content of this post is not intended to diagnose health problems, offer personal medical advice, or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified healthcare professional. Please consult your healthcare practitioner for any advice on natural health care products or medication. No information on this website should be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent a disease or condition.
 Hasudungan, Armando. “Clinical Anatomy-Knee.” YouTube. Feb. 13, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=0R95KGJc0GY Accessed February 20, 2018.
 VisibleBody. “The Long and Short of It: The Five Types of Bones.” Visiblebody.com. https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/skeleton/types-of-bones Accessed February 20, 2018.
 Shamir, Lior. “MRI-based knee image for personal identification.” International Journal of Biometrics. 5, no. 2, March, 2013. P. 113-125.
 WebMD. “Tips to Keep Joints Healthy.” WebMD.com. Nov. 7, 2017.
https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/better-living-ra-17/active/slideshow-keep-joints-healthy Accessed February 20, 2018.