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What Is the Anatomy of the Knee?

The knee anatomy consists of a complex network of bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and muscles, all of which must work seamlessly together in order for this large, hinged joint to function properly without pain.

Specifically, the knee anatomy includes the following components:

  • Bones – Three bones come together in the knee joint: the thigh bone (femur), shin bone (tibia) and kneecap (patella).
  • Cartilage – Two types of cartilage cushion the knee joint: menisci and articular cartilage. The menisci are two crescent-shaped discs that prevent the bones in the knee joint from grinding together during movement, and also help distribute the weight load evenly between the femur and tibia. Articular cartilage is a smooth tissue that covers and protects the surfaces of the femur, tibia and patella at the points where they articulate against each other.
  • Ligaments – The knee anatomy has four ligaments, which are tough, fibrous tissues that link bones together and promote joint stability. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prevents the femur from sliding backward onto the tibia and the tibia from sliding forward onto the femur. The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) prevents the femur from sliding forward onto the tibia and the tibia from sliding backward onto the femur. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) prevent the femur from moving excessively from side to side.
  • Tendons – Tough bands of soft tissue, tendons connect bone to muscle and promote joint stability. The largest tendon in the knee anatomy is the patellar tendon, which covers the kneecap, runs up the thigh and attaches to the quadriceps.
  • Muscles – While not technically part of the knee anatomy, the hamstrings and quadriceps help bend and straighten the knee joint, and the gluteal muscles help position the knee.
  • The joint capsule – A membrane that surrounds the knee, the knee capsule contains synovial fluid, which lubricates and nourishes the joint.
  • Bursae – These small, fluid-filled sacs reduce friction in the knee joint and help prevent inflammation.

Knee pain can result from damage to any of these structures. To identify the source of the pain and determine the most appropriate treatment, a knee specialist at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, Texas, will perform a thorough evaluation of the knee anatomy, which will generally include a physical examination and a review of imaging studies.

Based on a conservative treatment philosophy, we encourage our patients to explore nonsurgical treatment options for knee pain before discussing any type of surgery. If you’d like to request a consultation, contact Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, today.