When a person bends his leg and is unable to straighten it or bend it further the condition is known as locked knee. The fixed position requires maneuver with hands either to make the leg straight or bend further. Usually the knee gets locked at 45 degrees.
Locked knee is a painful condition and embarrassing too. Suffering from locked knee can affect daily life. The condition can be sudden in onset or it a progressive phenomenon which ultimately results in inability to have proper range of motion. Both young and old can suffer from this problem, even though the causes may vary.
Locked knee to a lesser extent can be managed conservatively but in severe cases it needs surgery. Sometimes the patient may have to visit emergency room if the condition is sudden and severe.
Causes Of Locking Of Knee Joint
Before knowing how the knee gets locked, it is important to understand the anatomy of knee. This complex joint has to bear the weight of body. The knee joint is made up of lower end of thigh bone and upper end of lower leg bones. It remains stabilized with the help of meniscus, ligaments and tendons.Meniscus is a cartilage tissue. Meniscuses are semilunar cartilage; there are two meniscuses in knee joint, medial and lateral. They are placed between the two ends of bones.
The major cause of locked knee is damage of meniscus. Their function is to absorb the stress and strain while doing various movements. If any or both of them are damaged or torn and a fraction of it is wedged into the knee joint space it can cause locked knee. The condition is often prevalent in sports activities such as football, skiing, where sudden twisting movement of leg can be the cause.
As you age osteoarthritis of knee joint is common issue. There is a gradual wear and tear of meniscus in such patients. Therefore locked knee is more of an osteoarthritic problem in elderly individuals. A separated fragment of fractured knee bone can cause mechanical interference of knee mobility or locked knee. Sometimes the knee joint appears locked and swollen due to spasms of muscles.
Treatment Options For Locked Knee
The treatment of locked knee depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In some cases the condition improves conservatively while severe cases may require surgery.
- Ice fomentation will help to relieve pain in most cases. Take few ice cubes in a towel and place it over the painful knee for 5 to 10 minutes two to three times in a day. It will also help to reduce inflammation.
- A supportive knee brace is very important for stabilizing knee joint. It will relieve pain as well as help the knee to be steadier. The doctor will recommend the exact size of knee brace.
- Warm fomentation or a heating pad will also be effective way in treating the condition. Place the heating pad for 30 minutes on the knee. If you are not able to find a heating pad, simply pouring warm water on the affected knee for 10 minutes will help to reduce the symptoms.
- Alternative measures such as physiotherapy exercises and yoga will improve the knee’s range of motion as well as strengthen the muscles supporting the knee. People with osteoarthritis of knee joint benefit the most from this procedure.
- In severe cases of locked knee surgery is essential to remove the piece of cartilage that is blocked in the knee joint space. Nowadays arthroscopic operation is performed to remove the torn cartilage. It is simple and requires minimal invasive surgery with better results.