Knee buckling occurs when the knee fails to support the weight of the body, and therefore collapses or does not remain straight. It can be the result of internal damage to the cartilage, joints, or knee tissue. This damage can be caused by injury or an underlying health condition. In the article below, we share the top 5 causes of knee-buckling and suggest some effective exercises for combatting this issue.
Top 5 Causes of Knee Buckling:
- Meniscus Tear: One of the most common causes of knee-buckling is a tear in the cartilage rings surrounding your knee, called the menisci. The menisci act to disperse the weight of the body and reduce friction during movement. When your menisci tears, your knee can become unstable, especially when going down the stairs or squatting down to pick something up.
- Cruciate Ligaments Tear: The cruciate ligaments of the knee include the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). These ligaments are two strong, rounded bands that extend from the head of the tibia to the intercondyloid notch of the femur. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the key ligaments that help stabilize your knee joint. The ACL connects your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia).
One of the most common knee injuries is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain or tear. This often occurs suddenly when pivoting or turning sharply. And for this reason, these injuries often occur during sporting activities.
The knee joints rely on the stability of the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) and other ligaments, so any injury or damage to these ligaments can cause a knee to ‘give out’ when walking. Often the knee “pops” and immediately begins to swell after it has buckled.
- Collateral Ligaments Tear: You have two major ligaments running down the side of your knees—the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The LCL runs along the outside of your knee joint, whereas the MCL stretches down the inside. Injuries to the collateral ligaments are usually caused by a force that pushes the knee sideways. Medial collateral ligament tears often occur as a result of a direct blow to the outside of the knee, pushing the knee inwards. Your ACL and MCL can tear at the same time, which is another common cause of knee buckling.
- Patellar Instability: Your kneecap or “patella” itself can be the cause of knee buckling. It is attached to your femur, but can slide out of its “grooves.” The patella can often pop back into place on its own. Patellar instability refers to knee-buckling that occurs when the kneecap changes locations.
- Arthritis: An unstable knee can be attributed to joint conditions like osteoarthritis, the wear, and tear of cartilage, or rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease. This damage can lead to knee support failure.
Arthritis in your knee can cause dips and grooves to form in the knee joint. These uneven surfaces cause the joint to “catch” instead of rotating smoothly. For example, you might find yourself rising from a chair when the joint gets stuck and triggers an episode of knee buckling.
Sometimes, a loose piece of cartilage floats around and gets caught in your joint. When this happens, you may feel as if your knee is giving way, or as if the joint has become locked.
With that being said, the best treatment for knee-buckling is dependent on knowing the exact cause of the issue. One way to help avoid the pain and inconvenience associated with knee-buckling is to strengthen the muscles supporting the knees.
Helpful Exercises For Knee Buckling:
Isometric Quad Contraction
Lie on your back and straighten your leg. Place a pillow under the affected knee. Tighten your thigh muscles for a three-minute hold as you press your leg into the pillow.
Lie on your back with both legs straight. Tighten your buttocks for a three-minute hold, then release.
Sit on the floor with one leg straightened in front of your body. Flex your foot to bring your toes toward your body, stretching the calf muscles. Repeat the movement.
Straight Leg Raise
Lie on your back with both legs straight. Raise one leg, keeping the knee straight, and hold this position for three seconds before releasing. Repeat the movement.
Straight Leg Raise with a pillow
Lie on your back with one knee bent and a pillow under your straight knee. Straighten your bent leg, keeping your knee on the pillow. Hold this position for three seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.
Prone Knee Bend
Lie on your stomach with your legs straight. Bend your knees and press your heels outward toward your hips. Hold this position for three seconds.
Straight Leg Raise on a Chair
Sit on a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg, straighten your knee and hold this position for three seconds before releasing. Gradually build up your strength so that you can use ankle weights to intensify the exercise.
Standing Knee Bends
Stand upright with your legs shoulder-width apart. Place your hand on a chair or wall for balance if needed. Slightly hinge from your hips and bend your knees to move into a shallow squat. Keep your back straight and return to the starting position.
In summary, if you are experiencing knee-buckling, it is best to consult with a physiotherapist who can assign specific exercises to address the cause of your buckling. As well, walking with a medical device, like a knee brace or walker may help alleviate pressure from the weight of the body.
For a more comprehensive program designed to eliminate your knee pain forever, check out Knee Pain Solved.