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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

Common Causes of Knee Instability

Knee instability occurs when the knee consistently gives out or locks while performing everyday activities. Sometimes instability is accompanied by pain, but other times it will happen without any other symptoms.

However, knee instability is not a condition by itself; it is a symptom of a more significant orthopaedic issue.

Why Is My Knee Giving Out?

More often than not, knee instability is a symptom of a ligament injury. The knee joint is composed of muscles, bones, and ligaments that help the knee bend and maintain stability. Damage to any of the knee’s ligaments can compromise the strength and function of the knee. This is equally true for torn, sprained, or inflamed ligaments.

Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery often find knee instability is a common symptom in the three following ligament injuries:

  1. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): This is the ligament that connections the tibia to the femur. The ACL can sprain or tear after a sudden cutting or twisting motion. Dr. Joseph typically sees this injury in skiers, hockey players, football players, and mountain bikers.

  2. Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL): Like the ACL, the MCL connects the tibia to the femur. However, this ligament runs along the inside of the knee. Knee instability in an MCL injury will often cause the knee to collapse inward rather than outward.

  3. Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL): This ligament runs along the back of your knee and keeps the joint from hyperextending backward. The PCL is strong and difficult to sprain or tear. Injuries to this ligament are nearly always the result of a traumatic, direct blow to the knee.

Knee instability is not always a symptom of ligament injuries. Other possible causes include:

  • Knee Arthritis

  • Patella (Kneecap) Instability

  • Nerve Damage

No matter what the cause, knee instability is a serious symptom that could be a risk to your body’s health and function. It’s essential to have the reason behind this symptom properly diagnosed to prevent further orthopaedic damage later in life.

Treatment for Knee Instability

Treating knee instability begins with a diagnosis by an orthopaedic knee specialist. Dr. Joseph and his team will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order the necessary imagine tests until the type and severity of your injury has been determined.

Treatment for knee instability will depend on the nature of your knee injury. If your symptoms result from an MCL tear, ligament sprain, or partial ACL and PCL tear, Dr. Joseph may attempt nonsurgical intervention.

These conservative methods include:

  • Rest

  • Ice

  • Elevation

  • Compression

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

  • Bracing

  • Crutches

  • Physical therapy

Complete ACL and PCL tears require surgery to repair or replace the torn ligament. If conservative treatment methods do not resolve your issues, Dr. Joseph may recommend a surgical procedure called a knee arthroscopy.

During knee arthroscopy, Dr. Joseph will insert a tiny camera into the knee and repair the damaged area via a few small incisions. Knee arthroscopy is a standard, minimally invasive procedure that provides faster recovery, less scarring, and reduced risk of complications.

Knee Weakness? Contact Team Joseph Today?

If your knee regularly gives out, collapses, or feels unstable, contact Dr. Joseph today. He and his team of orthopaedic knee experts will accurately diagnose your knee issue and work with you to design a treatment plan that gets you back to doing the activities you love.

Schedule your appointment today by calling (970) 476-7220 or via our online contact form.

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