As a result of such frequent use, the knees are prone to injury and degeneration. Both can lead to locked knees, which is where a person cannot bend or straighten their knee.
There are two types of locked knee: pseudo and true locked knee. Keep reading for more information about their causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What is a locked knee?
Locked knee occurs when a person is unable to either bend or straighten their knee. There are two types.
Pseudo locked knee
Pseudo locked knee occurs when severe knee pain triggers the knee muscles to spasm and contract. It is an automatic defense mechanism that the body uses to discourage movement of the knee. Restricting the knee in this way helps prevent further damage. Although muscle tightening and swelling make bending or straightening the knee painful, the knee joint itself is not physically incapable of moving.
True locked knee
True locked knee occurs when something physically prevents the knee from straightening. When a person has a true locked knee, their knee joint gets stuck in one position and cannot move at all.
The causes of locked knees vary depending on the type.
Causes of pseudo locked knee:
*pain from a knee injury
*inflammation from injury or degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis)
*plica syndrome, which is inflammation of the knee joint tissue
*patellar maltracking, where the kneecap does not move correctly
Causes of true locked 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.
*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.
Symptoms of pseudo locked knee
The main symptom of pseudo locked knees is pain. A person may also experience the following symptoms:
Symptoms of true locked knee
The primary symptom of a true locked knee is the inability to straighten the knee. In some cases, a person with a 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:
Treatments will vary based on the type of locked knee a person has and its underlying cause. If you have pseudo knee locking, come see one of our Physios at VanCity Physio; however, if you are experiencing a true locked knee, go to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible.
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