Taking An Anatomical Look At A Twisted Knee


Knee Anatomy 101


A twisted knee can be sore, quite painful, or even debilitating, depending upon the extent of damage that has occurred to the knee joint. To better understand what might be involved in a twisted knee, let’s take a quick look at the knee’s anatomy. The femur, or thigh bone, which is the large bone in the upper leg, and the tibia, or shinbone, the largest of the lower leg bones, form a hinge joint at the knee. The patella, a disc-shaped bone we call the kneecap, also plays a role in how the knee joint functions. The other leg bone, the fibula or calf bone, also plays a role in supporting the weight of the body, but it is the femur and the tibia which are mainly involved in the movement of the knee joint, with the patella primarily serving to protect the joint, while at the same time allowing it a somewhat greater range of movement and extension.

This hinge joint is cushioned by cartilage that covers the ends of the femur and the tibia, as well as the underside of the patella. Two ligaments, the medial collateral ligament and the lateral collateral ligament, run along the sides of the knee joint.  Another set of ligaments, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament, connect the tibia to the femur, and serve to keep both the femur and tibia from sliding too far backward or forward in the knee joint. The ACL, which is involved in so many knee injuries, is the ligament that’s responsible for limiting the forward motion of the tibia and limiting its twisting as well. Add the muscles and tendons, the bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that serve to lubricate the joint and help the knee move smoothly, and two pieces of cartilage that serve in a shock absorbing capacity, and you have the knee joint. The knee joint is large and very complicated.


It’s Usually A Ligament That’s Injured


When one experiences a twisted knee, one of the aforementioned ligaments has either been stretched beyond its normal limits, or it has been torn. It’s possible of course for more than one ligament to be injured, but in most instances a single ligament is involved, which is nevertheless enough to cause some pain.

When a knee has been twisted, it’s called a sprained knee when it’s the ligaments surrounding the knee joint that have been damage. It’s called a strained knee if it is muscles or tendons that have been stretched or torn. These two terms are quite often used interchangeably. Calling the injury a twisted knee avoids confusion, as it covers all the bases.


Self-Diagnosis Of An Injured Knee


If you should twist your knee, it can sometimes be an easy matter to determine the extent of the injury, which can be mild, somewhat severe, or incapacitating. Twisting a knee does not always require medical treatment. If the ligaments which support the knee have not been significantly damaged, the knee should heal itself in a matter of days or a few weeks at most. If the twist has not been severe, you should try to move the knee through its range of motion, which is primarily up and down, but you should also try to move it slightly from side to side.  This self-diagnosis needs to be done gently, almost gingerly, as the knee will often be quite tender. The knee should feel cool to the touch, or at least not any warmer than normal body temperature. If it is hot to the touch, the damage may be significant, and you should see a doctor.

The passage of time will sometimes tell you how severe your knee problem is. If the soreness does not go away in a few days, or if it becomes increasingly painful to put weight on the knee, either see your doctor or go to a clinic. An ice pack can treat the pain, but you need to bear in mind that with ice, it is the symptoms that are being treated, and not the injury itself. If relief is only temporary, or if warmth or swelling persists, treatment at a medical facility will likely be necessary.


If the twist is mild, your knee should show signs of improvement within 5 days, or a week at the most. Once the pain or soreness has subsided, and there is no indication that significant swelling has occurred, it’s usually safe to start exercising the knee, but do so gently at first. It would be best to continue to exercise the knee for a lengthy period of time, since by doing so it will strengthen the muscles and tendons, and the knee will be better apt to deal with the type of movement that caused it to be twisted in the first place. If the knee is not rehabilitated in this manner, it can sometimes be easy to twist it over and over again. While the ligaments serve to keep the various parts of the knee in their proper place, they need strong muscles and tendons to help them perform that function.