The knee joint is one of the most amazing and abused joints in the body, and also the largest. Not only does its hinge-like design allow you to bend your leg, the knee joint also twists, rotates, and straightens and is subjected to a great deal of stress and weight every time you put your foot on the ground. The heavier you are, the more vigorous your activity, the more weight and stress you place on the joint. Therefore, understanding how the knee works and how to protect it can translate into many years of healthy knee function.
The knee joint is composed of four bones: the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia) are the larger of the four, and they meet head-to-head in the knee joint. The smaller shin bone (fibula) is positioned to the side of and just beneath the tibia, leaving the fourth bone, the knee cap (patella), which protects the knee joint from injury and trauma. These four bones are connected by muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and together these structures allow you to move as well as keep your knee joint stable, aligned, and healthy.
One more critical structure is part of the picture as well: cartilage. This gel-like, elastic tissue is a security and shock-absorber system rolled into one: it prevents the ends of the knee bones from banging and grinding against each other whenever your knee moves, and it absorbs the shock or stress that impacts your knee every time you walk, run, jog, squat, climb stairs, or even stand. When you walk, for example, your knee is exposed to about three times your body weight, while running places ten times your body weight onto your knee joint.
If you are a runner or another type of athlete, you may be familiar with the term “torn cartilage”. This refers to damage to a special layer of thick cartilage called the meniscus. The meniscus cushions the meeting point of the tibia and femur and absorbs the impact related to movement while also helping to stabilize the knee joint. The knee joint also hosts articular cartilage, a smooth tissue that covers the underside of the patella and lines the area of the femur so these bones can move effortlessly whenever you bend and straighten your knee.
Therefore to help ensure your knee joints function optimally, it is critical to keep your cartilage in a healthy condition. Without healthy cartilage, you will be unable to prevent injuries and damage that can accumulate daily and gradually, resulting in pain, stiffness, limited mobility, inflammation, and ultimately the destruction of the bones and your knee joint. To keep your cartilage healthy, it helps to know the causes of knee pain and different ways to prevent knee pain and treatments for knee pain.