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What Causes Your Knee To Lock Up

How Serious Is Your Knee Symptom

Good Question: Why Do Locked Knees Cause Fainting?

Our knees buffer us as we pursue the activities of day-to-day life. Over time, wear and tear can take a toll on knee function. We review common knee symptoms, and explain the potential causes for each problem.

Our knees serve us faithfully for years. Then, suddenly we notice a popping sound when we straighten up, or wake up with swelling we never had before. Symptoms of knee problems can range from stiffness in the morning to a feeling of pain when we descend stairs. Although only your doctor can properly diagnose the cause of knee symptoms, we have listed some of the most common knee problems that people experience, and identify some probable underlying causes.

  • Swelling. A swollen knee is common with a number of different knee problems. If the swelling is immediate, and follows an injury, it could be the result of a severe injury to an internal joint structure, and should be seen by a physician right away. When the swelling develops gradually in the hours or days following an injury, the damage is usually less severe. The cause could be a torn meniscus or a ligament sprain. If the swelling occurs without a preceding injury, the most common cause is osteoarthritis. Other less common causes of swelling include gout, inflammatory arthritis, or a joint infection.
  • Limited mobility. Arthritis is the most common cause of limited knee mobility. If knee motion becomes restricted following an injury, the probable cause is injury-related swelling, or a torn structure in the knee.

Can Knees Lock Up After Total Knee Replacement

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Causes Of True Locked Knee

Some potential causes of true locked knee include:

Meniscal tear

The menisci are two pieces of c-shaped cartilage that sit either side of the knee joint. They act as a cushion between the bones of the shin and thigh.

If a meniscus tears, a fragment can break away and become stuck in the knee joint, causing the joint to lock.

A meniscal tear can occur during forceful twisting or rotation of the knee. Other causes include overuse and degenerative changes to the knee.

Loose bodies in the knee

Like cartilage, bone fragments can also embed themselves in the knee joint, causing it to lock.

Loose bodies such as cartilage and bone fragments can occur due to injury or osteoarthritis.

Patella dislocation

Certain injuries to the knee can cause the kneecap, or patella, to move out of position. This is called patella dislocation. It can cause the knee to lock during extension.

Knee joint inflammation

If the structures within the knee joint become swollen and inflamed, they may prevent extension of the knee. Swelling could occur as a result of injury, overuse, or osteoarthritis.

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How Can I Prevent A Meniscus Tear

Meniscus tears are tough to prevent since they’re usually the result of an accident. But some precautions might lower the risks of a knee injury. You should:

  • Keep your thigh muscles strong with regular exercises.
  • Warm up with light activities before taking part
  • Give your body time to rest between workouts. Fatigued muscles can increase your risk of injury.
  • Make sure your shoes have enough support and fit correctly.
  • Maintain flexibility.

When Should You See A Doctor For Knee Buckling

Locking Your Knees In Yoga

Knee buckling can be a sign of an underlying or disease. People with knee instability are also more likely to fall and sustain another injury. The safest option for dealing with knee buckling is to make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor can determine the extent of any injury or disease and diagnose any potentially serious problems.

or go to your nearest emergency room or urgent care facility for an injury affecting the knee.

Also Check: How To Sit On Toilet After Knee Surgery

Symptoms Of True Locked Knee

The primary symptom of true locked knee is the inability to straighten the knee. In some cases, a person with true locked knee may experience pain, as well.

If a loose body within a joint is causing true locked knee, a person might experience other signs and symptoms, including:

  • chronic stiffness in the knee
  • difficulty straightening the knee fully
  • popping sensation in the knee
  • feeling a bump at the site of the loose body
  • intermittent pain and swelling

A doctor will begin by asking questions about symptoms, such as pain and swelling. They will then physically examine the knee to check for signs of bruising, inflammation, and tenderness.

During the examination, the doctor may push or pull on the knee to evaluate the joint. They may then ask the person to walk across the room to assess their mobility.

Sometimes, a doctor may recommend diagnostic imaging to examine the knee more closely. Examples of such tests include:

  • magnetic resonance imaging

Treatments will vary based on the type of locked knee a person has and its underlying cause.

What Is Knee Locking Or Locked Knee

Knee Locking or Locked Knee is the term used to describe a painful condition that occurs as result of knee extension at certain angle.1 During extension of knee joint, extension is restricted at 10 to 30 degree to prevent pain. Patient is unable to achieve optimum normal extension. Any further extension beyond the restricted angle causes severe intractable knee pain. Most common cause of locked knee or knee locking is meniscus tear, congenital defect, injury or disease like osteoarthritis.

Read Also: Why Are My Knees Aching

Dr Bennett Is A Knee Specialist With Many Years Of Experience Treating Knee Pain

Because the causes of knee pain are varied, you should have an experienced knee specialist evaluate your knee injury. ;Dr. Bennett has many years of experience successfully treating a variety of knee injuries and knee arthritis so call for an appointment to start on the road to recovery from knee pain and knee stiffness. ;You dont want to ignore knee pain or knee popping or locking. ;If you do, it can make it more likely that treating your knee injury will require a total knee replacement at some point.

Treating Your Knee At Home

Knee Locking
  • 1Stop all activity and rest your knee. If you injured your knee during a sporting event or other activity, stop immediately and rest the knee joint. If you have some range of movement in your knee, ask someone to help you walk to the nearest safe place to sit, and rest for as long as possible. Additional movement can further damage the knee joint.XResearch source
  • If you have no movement in your knee, visit the doctor immediately or contact emergency services, as it might be a broken or dislocated kneecap, which requires immediate medical attention.
  • 2Ice the knee immediately. Placing ice on the knee will help to reduce pain and the effects of swelling. Its best to leave the ice on for 30 minutes at a time. You can put ice on the locked knee every 3 or 4 hours for 2-3 days after the injury.XTrustworthy SourceCleveland ClinicEducational website from one of the world’s leading hospitalsGo to source
  • Refrain from applying heat to a knee injury until a doctor tells you its appropriate. Heat can cause more inflammation of the area and increase swelling, limiting your movement further.
  • If the pain is recurring, you have arthritis, or youve injured the knee before, alternate between ice and heat to relax the muscles and joints after any swelling has gone down.
  • Make sure your back and neck are properly supported to avoid injuring other areas of your body.
  • Always read and follow the package instructions for any medication before you take it.
  • Read Also: What Is Knee Replacement Recovery Like

    When Will My Knee Feel Better

    Recovery time for your knee depends on a number of factors, including how severe your meniscus tear is. Full recovery from surgery may take 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of procedure performed as well as other factors. But keep in mind that people also heal at different rates. In most cases physical therapy is used after surgery to minimize complications and speed recovery.

    If your medical team agrees, you could take up a new activity that won’t aggravate your knee pain while you recover. For instance, runners could try swimming.

    Whatever you do, don’t rush things. Don’t try to return to your old level of physical activity until:

    • You can fully bend and straighten your knee without pain.
    • You feel no pain in your knee when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump.
    • Your knee is no longer swollen.
    • Your injured knee is as strong as your uninjured knee.

    If you start using your knee before it’s healed, you could cause further injury.

    To Treat A Meniscus Tear

    A meniscus tear is the most common cause of a true knee lock. To treat a meniscus tear, your doctor will likely recommend rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication. They are also likely to recommend physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around your knee and in your legs, which will help stabilize your knee joint and reduce pain and locking.

    If you keep having symptoms, and especially if locking continues, your doctor will probably recommend surgery. In children and young adults, meniscus tears can usually be repaired. However, in older people and in severe tears, surgical repair may not be possible. In this case, a surgeon will try to trim your meniscus to prevent it from getting caught in your knee.

    After your surgery, you will need a period of rest for your knee to heal. Later, youll need to perform therapeutic exercises to boost your knee strength and stability.

    Read Also: How To Relieve Knee Cap Pain

    Extent And Success Of Meniscus Repair

    It’s best to keep as much of the meniscus as possible. If the meniscus can be repaired successfully, repairing it reduces the chance of knee joint degeneration compared with removing all or part of the meniscus.

    Meniscus repair is more successful if:

    • You are younger. Experts think people younger than about age 40 do best.
    • Your knee has good stability from the ligaments.
    • The tear is in the outer edge of the meniscus.
    • The repair is done within the first few weeks after the injury.footnote 1

    Meniscal repair may prevent degenerative changes in the knee joint. Many doctors believe that a successful meniscus repair lowers the risk of early-onset arthritis, because it reduces the stress put on the knee joint.

    When To See A Doctor

    Knee Locking

    If there is pain, have a doctor look at your knee as soon as possible. Doing so may prevent a more serious knee injury including anterior cruciate ligament injuries. They affect between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans each year.

    Even if the knee popping does not cause pain, you may still want to have it checked out. In some cases, it may be an early warning sign of a repetitive use injury. This may require weight loss, a change of footwear, or knee-strengthening exercises to better protect the joint.

    The best treatments are targeted directly at the specific problem that is causing the abnormal popping or snapping inside the knee joint.;Most mechanical problems are best treated with arthroscopic knee surgery. You can ease crepitus and tendon problems by taking care of the inflammation in the knee joint.

    Also Check: How To Build Leg Muscle With Bad Knees

    Why Does My Knee Catch Or Lock

    Many causes of knee pain often have associated symptoms. A common associated symptom of knee pain is when individuals describe their knee as locking or feeling locked. There may be several reasons for this feeling. Musculoskeletal physiotherapists and doctors often describe a pseudo-locking and a true locking of the knee.

    Pseudo-locking of the knee is when the knee is able to fully extend but catches or clunks in to this position. The most common cause for this symptom is significant knee stiffness after the knee has been held in a flexed position for a prolonged period of time.

    Other specific causes of catching symptoms to the knee include an inflamed or thickened tissue which sits to the sides of the patellar known as plicae. As the knee extends this tissue can become trapped between the front of the knee joint and the patellar causing a sharp pain and sometimes an audible clunk. Patellar instability or osteoarthritis may also cause a catching of the knee as the alignment of the patellar may not be central to the groove as the knee flexes and extends.

    Locked Knee: Causes Treatments And When To Seek Help

    What Causes a Knee to Lock?

    The causes of a locked knee can vary, but the most common reason that this occurs is a torn or partially torn meniscus or damage to other cartilage in the knee. This feeling of the knee being locked often occurs in standing or walking. This strange knee symptom will often start as a clicking sensation in the knee every time you take a step.

    If a traumatic injury is the cause of damaged knee cartilage, you may not go through the initial stages of noticing a clicking sensation of the knee. When a traumatic injury occurs to knee as a result of falling or a sports injury, the knee may immediately feel as though it is locked in a certain position and you are unable to either bend or straighten the knee. Most commonly the knee will become locked in extension meaning that trying to bend the knee will either cause great pain or be impossible. This is the reason that it is common to feel this sensation when standing.

    A piece of cartilage may also be completely torn off and floating freely in the knee, what is referred to as a loose body, and may also be in the way of allowing complete knee range of motion.

    Read Also: What Is Osteoarthritis Of The Knee Symptoms

    What To Know When Your Knee Locks Up

    The human knee is a synovial joint, having the synovial fluid as a lubricant between the femur and the calf bones. Since knees suffer abrasions and shocks, the joint is protected by the patella, also called as knee cap.

    If you often wonder Why does my knee lock? You should know that over the years, due to excessive strain on the knees, injuries, and calcium loss, people suffer from a condition that can be described as the locked knee. This is what causes knee to lock up most commonly. Thus, knee locking and popping is a common occurrence today.

    Locked knee refers to a condition where the person becomes unable to move the joint, either due to inflammation, injury, or other chronic diseases.

    “Knee locking” is a fairly common joint ailment that inhibits the ability to move the knee in any direction. Knee locking affects many people each year who seek knee pain remedies;so that they can continue with their normal activities.

    Knee locking is most commonly caused by some damage to the bone, cartilage, tendons, or ligaments that comprise the overall knee structure. Of these knee components, damage to the meniscus – the cartilage – is the most common cause of locked knees.

    The meniscus and the other parts of the joint may cause knee locking for any of the following reasons:

    Nighttime Knee Pain In Adolescents

    Strategy for Knee Pain when your Knee Locks…

    Many teenagers and adolescents suffer from a condition thats called anterior knee pain. This causes pain in the front or center of the knee and can often be worse at night.

    Doctors from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons describe this type of knee pain as dull and achy. The pain may come on gradually, and physical activity can make the knee pain worse. The other symptoms of adolescent anterior knee pain include:15

    • Popping noises in the knee when climbing stairs
    • Nighttime knee pain
    • Pain when bending the knee
    • knee pain during intense physical activity

    Recommended Reading: Can I Have Both Knees Replaced At The Same Time

    How To Help Someone Whos Knee Has Locked:

    If someone you are with has a locked knee, help them to sit or lay down. If they are experiencing pain, consider providing them with an ice pack and something to elevate their leg on . Consider getting them a pain medication to take.;

    Then assist them to find medical help. Call their physician or consider driving them to the doctors office, urgent care, or emergency department.;

    Note that the information in this article is purely informative and should never be used in place of the advice of your treating physicians.

    Addressing The Root Problem

    In our modern medical system, a knee meniscus tear on MRI often leads to surgery for the tear. However, operating on a lateral meniscus tear caused by a bad popliteus muscle makes no common sense. The focus should be on the cause and not the effect .

    How does the muscle get out of sorts? Patients with low back problems that irritate the nerves that supply this muscle can have a popliteus that has trigger points .

    How do you know if this is whats causing your knee locking? Try a simple test. The next time this happens to your knee, look at the picture above and massage the back of your knee hard in this same popliteus area. Do this for a few minutes and then see if the knee is still locking as bad. If it helps the locking, meniscus tear or no meniscus tear, getting someone to remove the torn piece of the meniscus caused by this tight muscle isnt usually a sound idea.

    The upshot? Get to know the little muscle that most physicians have forgotten since their medical school anatomy exams. This key to normal knee movement could be the end of your knee locking up and your key to avoiding an unnecessary surgery!



    Last RJ. THE POPLITEUS MUSCLE AND THE LATERAL MENISCUS. J Bone and Joint Surg. VOL. 32 B, NO. 1, FEB 1950. doi:10.1302/0301-620X.32B1.93

    Jones CD, Keene GC, Christie AD. The popliteus as a retractor of the lateral meniscus of the knee. Arthroscopy. 1995 Jun;11:270-4. doi:10.1016/0749-806390002-0

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