What kinds of conditions can affect the knee?

The knee joint is made up of bone, cartilage, ligaments and fluid. Muscles and tendons help the knee joint move. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), knee problems can “happen when you injure or develop disease in your knee and it can’t do its job.” Anyone can have knee problems, including children, and they can occur in people of all races and ethnic backgrounds. Knee problems may be caused by injury, arthritis, or other diseases and symptoms depend on the type of injury or disorder. However, most cause pain and may limit a person’s ability to move their knee. The treatment of knee problems depends on the specific type of injury and may include medications to reduce pain and inflammation, exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles or to improve movement, electrical stimulation, physical therapy, and surgery to fix tears in the ligaments or cartilage or to replace the knee joint itself.

The following resources provide information on some of the causes of knee problems:

  • MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine, has a factsheet on knee problems that provides information on different conditions that can affect the knee, diagnosis and tests, treatments and therapies, and living with knee problems; statistics and research, clinical trials, and journal articles; a Find an Expert resource; and information for the parents of children and teens with knee problems. This factsheet is available in English and Spanish.
  • OrthoInfo, a service of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), provides a factsheet for people who have arthritis in their knees. This factsheet gives a brief definition of arthritis of the knee, discusses the anatomy of the knee, and describes three of the major types of arthritis of the knee. The factsheet also discusses symptoms, what happens during an examination with your primary care physician, treatments, and the recovery period if you have knee surgery.
  • The Mayo Clinic also provides this factsheet on osteoarthritis, which may affect the knee. The factsheet provides information on symptoms and causes of osteoarthritis, diagnosis and treatment, lifestyle changes and non-pharmaceutical remedies, coping and support, and clinical trials.
  • Knee pain can have various different overlapping causes, including overuse of the knee, misalignment of the structures that make up the knee, damage to the small nerves surrounding the knee, damage to the ligaments or cartilage, or degeneration of the bone, among others. To learn more about knee pain, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and related information, visit this factsheet on knee pain from Mount-Sinai Hospital and this factsheet on knee pain from the Mayo Clinic.

Over the years, NIDILRR has funded research related to knee problems, such as arthritis, knee osteoarthritis, therapies and other forms of rehabilitation for different knee problems, orthotics and prosthetics, activity and community participation, and other related topics. NARIC’s information specialists searched REHABDATA and found over 70 articles from the NIDILRR community and beyond on various topics related to knee problems. If you would like to learn more about knee problems, please contact NARIC’s information specialists.

Please note: If you are experiencing pain or any other symptoms related to knee problems, please contact your primary care physician right away. If it is an emergency, please call 9-1-1 right away.

About mpgarcia

I'm the Bilingual Information/Media Specialist at NARIC.
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