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What Causes My Knee To Suddenly Give Way

Are Knee Instability Symptoms Serious


The severity of your knee instability is ultimately dependent on the cause and the impact it has on your activity levels or quality of life.

  • Not serious: A mild strain or sprain is a common sports injury and can be healed with rest and physical therapy.
  • Moderately serious: Damage to the cartilage can lead to arthritis. The pain and instability of an acute injury may become chronic if not treated right away.
  • Serious: A more severe injury, if neglected, can suddenly worsen if you overdo it. For example, a partial tear may become a complete tear.

For Ligament Cartilage And Joint Tears

Ligament, cartilage and joint tears in your knee will need to be addressed by your doctor.

After imaging diagnostics and a clinical assessment, your doctor will let you know if your treatment will include physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication, or if youll need to undergo surgery to repair the injury.

Recovery from knee surgery can take some time. It may take anywhere from 6 months to a year to resume your normal activities.

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Who Is At Risk For Injuries Related To Knee Instability

Risk factors for injuries related to knee weakness include:

  • Engaging in sports, especially football, lacrosse, basketball, or skiing
  • Ignoring knee pain: Pain is your body’s sign something is wrong. If you let it persist unchecked, you could be allowing its cause to worsen.
  • History of torn ligament surgery
  • Arthritis
  • A prior knee replacement

What Causes A Trick Knee

Knee buckling causes, symptoms &  treatment

In about half of all cases of knee-buckling, the patients also had knee osteoarthritis. This is a type of arthritis where the cartilage in the knee joint has been slowly worn away over time. Itâs most common in people ages 50 and older. The underlying causes and pain of osteoarthritis may increase the instability of the knee â leading to a greater chance of buckling.

Weak quadriceps muscles at the front of your thigh are also common in patients who experience knee-buckling and may be part of the cause of your trick knee.

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Why Do My Legs Suddenly Give Out

A feeling of sudden leg weakness, causing your legs to give out or buckle can be alarming. Weakness in your leg may occur from problems in the nerves and/or muscles in your lower body and is usually treatable. Rarely, the underlying cause may be a serious medical condition requiring immediate medical attention.

A feeling of sudden weakness in the legs may be due to nerve and/or muscle dysfunction. Read:Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

Here are a few potential causes for leg weakness resulting in sudden buckling and possible falls.

How Do You Treat Weak Legs

For the best clinical outcome, it is best to address the underlying cause of leg weakness. Activity modification, rest and PT are first-line treatment options for mild direct trauma and nerve entrapment. Optimizing the glucose, and increasing activity may benefit patients with diabetes-related muscle weakness. SI joint-related leg weakness is frequently missed as it is not well understood or appreciated by doctors. Steroids are frequently injected into the SI joint and should be avoided as steroids are toxic to the cartilage . In addition, steroids can loosen the injured SI joint ligaments.

At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, we have extensive experience in the treatment of SI joint pain, instability, and related leg weakness. PRP and bone marrow-derived stem cells are precisely injected into injured areas utilizing x-ray and ultrasound. Lumbar disc protrusions, herniations, spinal stenosis, and slippage should not be treated with steroids given their toxicity to orthopedic tissue. The Centeno-Schultz Clinic demonstrated that PRP is a safer, more effective, and longer-lasting option than steroids in the treatment of lumbar disc and leg pain . To better understand current treatment options for low back and leg pain due to disc injuries please click on the video below.

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Complications Of Knee Buckling

Complications of weak knees may include:

  • Recurrent falls
  • Lack of confidence with balance
  • Feeling scared or nervous about future falls
  • Injuries because of falls

You should see your healthcare provider if you are experiencing the sensation of your knee giving out.

Seek immediate medical care if your knee gives out and you experience severe pain, significant swelling, or a fever.

For Tendinitis Runners Knee Gout And Bursitis

What is Causing the Pain Behind Your Knee, How to Tell

The treatment for conditions that cause swelling, redness, and dull, burning pain usually starts with resting the joint. Ice your knee to control swelling. Elevate and stay off your joint to promote healing.

Your doctor may recommend or prescribe NSAIDs like ibuprofen. Lifestyle changes, such as wearing protective kneepads and going to physical therapy, can help you manage pain and experience fewer symptoms.

You may need to make changes to your diet, especially if youre treating gout.

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Ligamentous Tears Of The Knee

The knee has four major stabilising ligaments that give it stability through range. One I previously mentioned is the ACL. If you have tears in the other 3 ligaments, you may also experience giving way of the knee.


Right next to the ACL, on the inside of the knee, we also have a PCL. This ligament helps to stop your shin bone from hyperextending.

This ligament is usually injured with dashboard car injuries, where the shin is forced into the dash and the knee hyperextends.

If your PCL is torn, you wont feel stable when you fully straighten the knee and the knee can give out backwards and buckle.


The major inside stabiliser of the knee is your MCL. This ligament stops the knee from buckling inwards.

The MCL is damaged when your knee is forced inwards. As you are forced into being knock kneed, the MCL is stretched and can partially or fully tear.


Much like the MCL, your LCL stops the knee from bowing outwards. It is put under strain when there is a force that pushes the knee out, like a kick to the inside of the knee.

Ligament Tear As A Cause Of Your Knee Giving Way

Ligament injuries and tears, which may be partial or complete, can lead to knee instability and knee giving way. The most common types of ligaments tears responsible for this include:

  • Tear in the Anterior Cruciate Ligament: Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear might occur due to sudden changes in movement and direction of motion as may be seen during sports. This may be accompanied by a pop sound, particularly as an individual suddenly changes their direction or falls after being unstable. ACL tear is often accompanied by pain and swelling.
  • Tear in the Posterior Cruciate Ligament: PCL most commonly occurs as an individual falls directly on the front of the knee. However, such a situation may develop when the shin is hit directly from the front, as may be seen during a road traffic accident.
  • Tear in the Medial Collateral Ligament: Tear in the MCL occurs when the outside of the knee gets a direct hit. When this hit leads to knee instability and knee-buckling, it is usually indicative of a significant tear in the Medial Collateral Ligament.
  • Tear in the Lateral Collateral Ligament: Lateral Collateral Ligament tears are associated with a painful sensation outside the knee joint and may occur in conjunction with other injuries.

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What Are The Potential Complications Of Knee Buckling

The main complication of knee instability is losing your balance and falling. Falling increases the risk of further injury, including fractures. People most at risk of falling include the elderly and those who have recurrent episodes of knee buckling.

Untreated knee injuries can accelerate the development of knee and worsening mobility. Persistent knee instability can also limit your ability to climb stairs. Fear of falling or losing your balance may cause many people to avoid activities, including work and leisure interests.

Patellar Dislocation Or Subluxation

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The kneecap, or patella, normally glides through a groove. A direct blow to the kneecap, usually from an accident or sports injury, can dislocate it from this groove. This is called patellar instability.

Two types of patellar instability include:

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Rare And Unusual Knee Instability Causes

Causes of knee instability that occur even less frequently include the following.

  • Partial dislocation: If you do something strenuous enough to damage the ligaments, it is likely that you will have damage to the cartilage around the knee bone as well. The patella, or kneecap, can become partially or completely dislocated. A partial dislocation is called a subluxation. Dislocation can occur if the ligaments are damaged and are not holding the kneecap firmly in place as usual.
  • Cartilage tears: The cartilage at the ends of the upper and lower leg bones, which meet under the kneecap, can become torn. This often happens along with a ligament sprain.
  • Cartilage wear: Cartilage can gradually wear away over time, causing pain and difficulty moving since there is no longer enough cushioning material between the bones.
  • Birth deformity: You may have been born with knee structure that makes the joint vulnerable to slipping out of place.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Other Causes Of Nerve Injury

  • Direct trauma to a nerve or nerves in the lower extremity can cause weakness. Contact sports, martial arts, and motor vehicle accidents can all cause direct nerve trauma.
  • Diabetes. the elevated blood sugars can damage the small nerve fibers which is the most common complication of type 1 and 2 diabetes .
  • The compression of a nerve as it descends down the leg can cause weakness. Often times your leg gives out. Common examples include entrapment of the sciatic nerve, common peroneal nerve, and posterior tibial nerve. The latter is commonly called tarsal tunnel syndrome

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A Tear In Your Cruciate Ligaments

As the knee joint relies on the stability of the anterior cruciate ligament and other ligaments, an injury or damage can cause a situation where the knee gives out when walking.

Your cruciate ligaments run down the center of your knee. This tear tends to be sudden and is usually the result of an injury to the knee. Often the knee pops and immediately begins to swell after it has buckled.

Injuries to the cruciate ligament are called ACL tears. They often occur when pivoting or turning sharply. And for this reason, they often occur during sporting activities.

Ask Dr Choi: Why Do Legs Give Out Without Warning

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Learn about whether you need medical evaluation if your legs give out.

It is alarming to suddenly have your legs give out as you take a step. However, you might be surprised to learn that many adults experience sudden leg weakness, and it is not always a serious condition. Of course, that doesnt make it any less alarming when it happens to you. Pain interventionalist Dr. Catherine Choi talks about the frequency of leg weakness. And she reviews some of the medical conditions that can cause your legs to suddenly give out.

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Treatment For This Condition

Medical treatment for buckling legs will depend on the cause and seriousness of the condition. Treatment options range from rest, ice, compression, and elevation for minor injuries to brace and bandage support, physical therapy, or surgery for severe or chronic leg problems.

If your legs give out, but you recover quickly, you may not need to go straight to the doctor, says Dr. Choi. However, whenever leg dysfunction includes severe pain that does not improve and continues for a few days, difficulty using stairs, ongoing inability to perform daily activities, or redness and fever, its time to make an appointment with your spine specialist.

Femoral Nerve Damage As A Cause Of Your Knee Giving Way

Femoral nerve damage can lead to knee-buckling, as it is the major nerve responsible for proving sensations to the lower leg. The damage to this nerve leads to weakness of the knees, which makes them more prone to buckling during activity. The common symptoms that may be associated with femoral nerve damage include tingling, burning, pain, and numbness. The condition that may increase ones risk for femoral nerve damage includes metabolic disorders like diabetes, arthritis, use of certain medications, alcohol consumption, fibromyalgia, and knee injuries. Femora nerve damage may be treated according to the cause and factors responsible for it. It may include surgical procedures, physiotherapy, pain medication, and making lifestyle changes. Some of these treatments may not be able to treat the condition, but they may help manage the symptoms and prevent them from getting worse.

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Treatment For A Wobbly Knee

Treating an unstable knee joint means first pinpointing the cause and severity of the injury. Many knee injuries can be treated conservatively with the RICE method , nonsteroidal pain medications, and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the knee, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings. Wearing a brace to stabilize the knee is also helpful.

Some serious knee injuries, such as an ACL or meniscus tear, may require surgery. During ACL surgery, the damaged ligament is reconstructed using the patients own tissue or tissue from another source. Meniscus tears are either trimmed or repaired in an arthroscopic procedure.

Dont let an unstable knee prevent you from enjoying life. The doctors at New York Bone & Joint Specialists have treated a variety of knee conditions and injuries using both non-surgical and surgical methods. Contact us today for an appointment.

What Is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

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Patellofemoral pain syndrome is pain in the front of the knee. It frequently occurs in teenagers, manual laborers, and athletes. It sometimes is caused by wearing down, roughening, or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap. The main symptom of patellofemoral pain syndro me is knee pain, especially when sitting with bent knees, squatting, jumping, or using the stairs . You may also experience occasional knee buckling, in which the knee suddenly and unexpectedly gives way and does not support your body weight. A catching, popping, or grinding sensation when walking or with knee movement is also common.

What causes patellofemoral pain syndrome?

Patellofemoral pain syndrome may be caused by overuse, injury, excess weight, a kneecap that is not properly aligned , or changes under the kneecap.

Is this a problem?

Usually not. Patellofemoral pain can cause limitations in activities because of the discomfort but usually there is not long term damage. Patients may continue with activities as tolerated.

How is patellofemoral pain syndrome diagnosed?

Your health professional will conduct a medical history and physical exam to determine the cause of your pain. In some cases, imaging tests including X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging may be done. These tests allow a doctor to view the tissues inside your knee to rule out damage to the structure of the knee and the tissues connected to it.

How is it treated?


Other Works Consulted

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Knee Buckling And Physical Therapy

When there is only nominal damage to the knee, physical therapy can effectively treat it quickly. PT helps to strengthen weak muscles and heal the damaged tissue that surrounds the knee. Also, it improves stabilization as well as accelerates the overall healing process.

On-demand physical therapy is an excellent way to avoid putting more strain on your knee while getting the help you need. You get one-on-one time with a board-certified PT who comes to your home and prescribes an exercise plan tailored to your unique needs and environment. It’s convenient, effective, and designed to help you feel better faster.

Stop worrying about your knees buckling and start healing instead. Contact Luna on-demand physical therapy for the help you need today.

How Do You Prevent Knee Instability

See your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any knee-related symptoms so a knee condition, if present, can be treated as early as possible. In some cases, this may help you avoid knee instability.

Other preventative measures include:

  • Doing exercises like toe raises and squats to strengthen the ACL, which is especially important for athletes
  • Wearing a knee brace
  • Avoiding overuse injuries, which are when knee trauma repeatedly occurs
  • Wearing a seat belt to reduce your risk of a dashboard-related knee injury

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Treatments That Reduce Knee Buckling May Help Prevent Falls In Older Adults

Symptoms of knee instability in older adults may indicate an increased risk of falling and of experiencing the various physical and psychological effects that can result from falling, according to a new study.

Symptoms of knee instability in older adults may indicate an increased risk of falling and of experiencing the various physical and psychological effects that can result from falling, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology . The findings indicate that determining effective treatments for knee instability should be an important priority as clinicians care for aging patients.

Knee buckling, often described as a knee “giving way,” is a symptom of knee instability that frequently affects older individuals, in particular those with knee pain and knee osteoarthritis , and may be caused by muscle weakness and balance difficulties. If knee instability leads to frequent falls and fall-related injuries, exercises and other interventions that stabilize the knee may help maintain older individuals’ health and quality of life. To investigate this potential link, Michael Nevitt, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues prospectively studied 1842 participants in the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study who were an average of 67 years old at the start and who had, or were at high risk for, knee osteoarthritis.

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