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What Causes Your Knee To Give Out

Cracking Or Popping Sounds

Is my knee giving out a sign of an ACL injury?

When you bend or straighten your knee, you may feel a grinding sensation or hear cracking or popping sounds. Doctors call this crepitus.

These symptoms can occur when youve lost some of the cartilage that helps with smooth range of motion. Both OA and RA can result in cartilage damage.

When cartilage is damaged, rough surfaces and bone spurs develop. As you move your joints, these rub against each other.

What Causes Your Knees To Give Out

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What Is The Meniscus Tear Recovery Time Without Surgery

As you aim to heal your meniscus naturally, it may be necessary to reduce sport activities or intense plyometrics that place your knee in unstable positions. This could take anywhere from 48 weeks depending on the severity and position of the tear.

During the healing process, your pain and stiffness should decrease along with any catching feeling within the joint. I recommend that you stick with the above exercises daily.

It is also important as you improve to incorporate other strengthening exercises into your routine. Try starting with some light pool exercises or begin incorporating more closed-chain exercises like in this bodyweight strengthening workout.

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What Causes Kneecap Instability

When the leg bends, the kneecap should slide smoothly into an indentation in the femur . There are several potential reasons why this doesn’t always work as it should, and why the problem becomes recurrent.

Some people have mechanical factors that predispose them to having a loose kneecap, Dr. Medvecky says, while others have instability that is caused by a traumatic injury, such as in sports, that distorts the knee and makes it unstable.

Patellar instability most commonly occurs in people in their teens and 20s. Because of their wider hips, women are more likely to experience knee instability due to misalignment. In a person with a tendency toward misalignment, the problem can develop from overuse and/or stress from being overweight in some cases. A kneecap that has popped out of place at least once is more likely to do so again than it is in a person who has never had a problem.

Some patients have abnormalities of the knee cap groove that can predispose to instability and make recovery more difficult. Yale Orthopaedics has the most comprehensive program in the country currently for understanding the specific structural problem of each patient, using advanced 3D imaging technology, innovative computer programs, and expertise at the Yale School of Engineering in some cases.

Hip Bursitis Or Tendonitis

Knee pain

Tendonitis and bursitis in the hip are usually caused by overuse and may make it difficult to move the hip joint and cause pain and swelling. Tendonitis is swelling and irritation of the tendons and bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. These conditions can usually be treated successfully with rest, cold compress, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy.

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Reasons Your Knee Has Given Out

The knee is a complicated joint, more than just a hinge that allows your leg to bend and straighten. Ligaments, tendons and bones assist the joint with bending, twisting, and stabilizing weight and movement. One of the primary functions of the knee is to support the body by bearing its weight. When the knee joint is compromised, so goes the body. A person whose knee suddenly gives out or buckles is at risk of a sudden fall and further injury.

Its not normal for a knee to buckle, and while it might at first seem like a fluke it could be a serious problem. Your health professional may order an X-ray or an MRI to receive an accurate assessment, in order to properly diagnose the knee problem. In many cases, an orthopedic specialist can provide the best treatment options for problems affecting the musculoskeletal system, especially joints like the knees.

What Causes Your Knee To Give Out When You Fall

ACL tear: An ACL tear usually occurs with sudden movements, such as a change in direction during sports. It is more often a non-contact injury, where a person may hear a pop while pivoting or landing after a fall. It may also occur with a motor vehicle accident. The giving out sensation is often followed by rapid development of pain and swelling.

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Reasons For Knee Buckling: Symptoms Diagnosis And Treatment

Imagine running to catch that bus your late for and your knee gives way! Or whilst playing your favourite sport, you experience your knee buckling underneath you.

Having your knee give way can be a scary thought. Not many people think about the reasons why your knee gives way until it happens to them.

Its at this point that knowing whats going on and how to fix it becomes very important.

Prefer to skip ahead?

8.Other Causes For Knee Buckling

This article is about highlighting the main reasons your knee gives way. Starting with the most common reasons, and then working down to those that may not occur so frequently.

The aim is not only to inform you, but to help you do what you need to overcome this condition.

Lets start from the top with the number one reason that your knee gives way!

ACL injuries are very common and can have lasting effects on your knees. The Medical Journal of Australia reports that in Australia, there are upwards of 17,000 injuries per year.

Looking at the statistics you can see that the rate of ACL injury is only increasing with increased population and participation in cutting sports such as netball and soccer.

The amount of reconstructions being performed are also increasing, with Australia currently having the highest amount of ACL reconstructionsin the world.

Scenario : A Sports Injury

Does Your Knee Buckle or Give Way? Top 3 Exercises-Unstable Knee

A 25 year old Ski Instructor attended my Knee Clinic and explained how on numerous occasions she had fallen in the snow whilst skiing. The bindings on her skis had not come off and as a result she felt immediate pain in her knee. She started to then experience her knee giving way from time to time especially on a twisting movement.


The Ski Instructor had sustained a cruciate ligament rupture. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is a key primary stabiliser of the knee joint. It prevents the knee giving way when the leg rotates outwards during pivoting and sporting movements. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament can occur during various sporting activities and in particular in sports such as skiing, football and rugby. This injury is sometimes associated with tears within the cartilage of the knee, and other ligament injuries such as the medial collateral ligament.

Patients who have injured their anterior cruciate ligament tend to have a knee that gives way from time to time especially on sporting activity that involves turning and twisting. In time they can damage their knee irretrievably.

Over the last 20 years there have been tremendous advances in the treatment of various conditions of the knee via keyhole surgery. An ACL reconstruction is a very successful procedure if done well and a number of high level professional athletes return to their pre-injury sporting level after a careful reconstruction and good rehabilitation with physiotherapy.

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Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears

The ACL is central within the knee and critical to supporting the joint with cutting and pivoting maneuvers. The ACL is most often injured with sudden shifts in direction in non-contact injury situations.

People with an ACL tear often complain that their knee buckles or wants to give out when they suddenly shift direction. Most ACL tears require surgery.

Scenario : An Osteoarthritic Knee

A 75 year old lady had developed a knock knee deformity in her right leg and found that she could no longer trust her knee as it would occasionally give way, especially when she climbed down the stairs.


This lady has one type of osteoarthritis of the knee, which is the gradual wearing of surface cartilage which happens over the years. This can affect one part of the knee or large areas. Depending on the area that is worn, different patterns of pain and instability can be experienced by the patient.

Generally early osteoarthritis can be managed with various conservative measures and it is very important to maintain a full range of motion in the joint with regular exercises. Conservative measures include regular exercises and physiotherapy, injections of cartilage protein, steroid injections and weight loss. When permanent pain and instability is a feature, partial or full joint replacement surgery may be indicated.

Knee replacements are now extremely successful procedures with very high patient satisfaction rates. Knee replacements have advanced tremendously in the last 20 years and most patients now have rapid recovery programs enabling them to return home 2 or 3 days after surgery. Implants that are well fixed can last 15 20 years and return people to excellent function and give them pain relief and confidence in their knee.

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Spinal Causes Of Nerve Injury

  • Spinal tumor with irritation or compression of the spinal nerves.
  • Lumbar disc protrusion or herniation with compression of the spinal nerve can result in weakness and the feeling that your leg gives out .
  • Slipped disc with compression of the spinal nerve. This is also referred to as spondylolisthesis .
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis with compression of spinal nerves. Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. The cardinal symptoms lumbar spinal stenosis are leg pain and weakness brought on with walking and relieved by sitting or flexing forward at the level of the hip .

Rare And Unusual Knee Instability Causes

What Can Cause Your Knee to Give Out?

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.

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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.

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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Pain Is Radiating To The Back Of Your Knee

Pain in the back of the knee can be something that happens immediately after a traumatic injury or something that progresses over time. The pain usually gets worse when walking, running, squatting or climbing stairs. Several conditions can cause this type of pain and include arthritic conditions, tears of the back of the meniscus or, in some cases, from a large Bakers Cyst that forms in the back of the knee.

Home Remedies And Medical Options

What is Causing Your Knee Pain? Torn or Worn-Out Cartilage? 3 Self-Tests


  • physical activity, including tai chi, walking, cycling, and water exercise
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to reduce pain and inflammation
  • tramadol, available on prescription for more severe pain
  • corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation
  • other medications, such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs for RA but not OA
  • applying heat and cold pads to relieve pain and swelling
  • topical creams, such as capsaicin
  • using a cane or walker to help you balance
  • acupuncture
  • attending cognitive behavioral therapy

Experts say that people who play an active role in managing OA, for example, are likely to see a more positive outcome. Learning about arthritis, becoming aware of what makes symptoms better or worse, and making decisions with your doctor are ways of doing this.

Discover exercises to strengthen the knee muscles.

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When To Seek Treatment For Your Arthritis

Arthritis doesnt have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of only two surgery centers nationally to receive The Joint Commissions Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.

Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, request an appointment online, or call us at to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

Most Common Knee Instability Causes

The most common causes of knee instability include the following.

  • Ligament sprain: Sprain of the knee ligaments, which means these ligaments have had their fibers damaged due to wear and tear, sudden stress, or direct trauma.
  • Ligament tear: Tear of the ligaments, meaning the fibers have been partially or completely torn through. This usually happens when you run and then make a sudden change of direction the knee stays pointing one way while the rest of you twists the other way.

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Ever Feel Like Your Knee Is Gonna Give Out

That feeling of instability could be a symptom of a greater issue. You may have one of these injuries that can be treated by a variety of non-surgical means:

  • Knee Instability: Although knee instability isnt an injury, it can lead to one. Its possible that your knee simply has some vulnerability and needs some strengthening and stabilization.
  • Meniscus Injury: That feeling of instability may be a sign that you have injured or torn your meniscus. The meniscus is a rubbery thick piece of cartilage that functions to keep the knee joint stable and absorb forces from walking and running. The meniscus can tear with forceful twisting or rotation of the knee. Symptoms can include many things like pain, swelling, stiffness, or difficulty extending your knee. These often respond very well to non-surgical treatments.
  • A Ligament Injury: Its possible that you may have injured one of the four major ligaments in your knee, the Medial Collateral Ligament , Lateral Collateral Ligament , the Anterior Cruciate Ligament or the Posterior Cruciate Ligament . These ligaments can be injured to varying degrees. Sprains are quite common. If there is more serious damage you may have partially torn the ligament. Both of these injuries respond very well to non-surgical treatments. If you have completely ruptured your ligament we may recommend surgery.
  • What Happens When You Fall On Your Meniscus

    What Can Cause Your Knee to Give Out?

    In addition to pain, knee sprain injuries commonly lead to swelling, tenderness, decreased knee range of motion, and difficulty bearing weight or feeling the knee is giving way. The meniscus is a cartilage cushion that separates the bones of your upper and lower leg at the knee. A fall on a twisted knee can lead to a meniscus tear.

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