Knee 101: Your Guide to Basic Knee Anatomy

March 29, 2021

Knee 101: Your Guide to Basic Knee Anatomy

If there’s anything the knee should be proud of, it’s for the fact that it’s the biggest among the joints. That doesn’t say much, though, since joints are usually tiny. But with its unassuming size, the knee is able to support the weight of your upper body while enabling mobility and flexibility in your lower body.

Let’s get to know more about what makes the knee work and break down every moving part that makes up this important joint. 

What makes up your knee?

In essence, the knee is a joint that connects two bones: the femur and the tibia. 

The femur is commonly referred to as your thigh bone. It is the strongest and the longest bone in your body, which runs from your thigh to your knee.

The tibia is commonly referred to as your shin bone. It runs from the knee to the ankle and is the stronger of the 2 lower leg bones (the other one being thefibula). The tibia supports most of the body’s weight but not without great help from its other half, the fibula.

The knee joint is protected by the kneecap - which is commonly mistaken for the knee itself. 

Your kneecap is the triangular shaped bone in front of the knee. 

The kneecap serves as the knee joint’s shield and protects the knees from a great deal of force. The kneecap is also protected with an added layer of cartilage.

Aside from the bones that the knees support, there are muscles, tendons, and cartilages that make up this joint. Let’s get to know them one by one. 


To start, let’s talk about the different cartilages that surround the knee.

Your cartilage is a connective tissue that supports the structure and motion in the bones. It enables the full range of motion that your knee has, allowing you to run and jump. Without it, your bones will painfully grind against each other with every movement.

Your knee cartilage has two types:meniscus andarticular cartilage.

The meniscus cartilage is your knee’s shock absorber. It is the cushion that softens the blow whenever there’s movement between your thigh and your shin, and provides the agency for them to move around. The meniscus also ensures balanced weight distribution between the thigh and shin bone.

The articular cartilage protects the bottom of the thigh bone, the top of the shin, and the back of the patella. It is the cushion under your thighs and at the back of your kneecaps that support your joint whenever you’re bending or kneeling. 

The next supportive structures to the knee joints are called ligaments.

The knee ligaments are fibrous, connective tissues that provide stability to your bones. Essentially, they keep the bones in place. 

If the knee cartilage provides cushion and padding around the bones, the knee ligaments provide structure and stability to the joint by connecting the bones.


Your knee has four  types of ligaments: 

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) - prevents the femur from sliding backward on the tibia, and inversely, the tibia from sliding forward to the femur.

PCL or Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) - prevents the femur from sliding forward to the tibia, and inversely, the tibia from sliding backward to the femur

The collateral ligaments(Medial Collateral Ligament or MCLand Lateral Collateral Ligament or LCL)  prevent the femur from moving side to side.

The other supporting structure that surrounds the knee are called tendons.  

Knee tendons are tough bands that provide stability to the joint. If ligaments connect bones together, tendons connect bones to muscles. 

The most important tendon in your knee is called the patellar tendon. The patellar tendon connects the kneecap with the quadriceps and the tibia or the shin bone. 

Other supportive structures that support, lubricate, and protect the knee joint are the joint capsule and bursae.

The joint capsule encapsulates the knee joint with synovial fluid to lubricate the joint and reduce any damage caused by friction. 

Bursae, on the other hand, are fluid-filled sacs inside the knee joint which performs the same function. They both work to reduce inflammation in the knees. The only difference is that joint capsules are located between bones and bursae are located between tissues. 

Though they’re not part of the knee joint in itself, the muscles surrounding the knee also deserve a shoutout. They’re thehamstrings andquadriceps. They strengthen the leg and flex the knee and are very important in giving the knee its range of motion. 

The glutes, or gluteal muscles, located in the buttocks area are also essential in positioning and stabilizing the knee.

Why is learning the anatomy of the knee important?

Learning about the knee’s anatomy sounds like a chore for those in the medical field, but why should you learn about this?

If you’re an athlete, learning about the knee gives you ample knowledge to properly take care of your physical assets. When you know what the parts and their functions are, you’re better equipped to avoidoverexertion,improper form, and you’re less likely to develop harmful habits that could lead to an injury.

If you’re a regular joe, don’t think you’re safe from this conversation. Aging and accidents are unavoidable for the common folk and learning about the knee’s anatomy can put you in a better position to prevent any pains and swiftly recover from injuries in case it happens. 

How do you take care of your knees?

Warm up before any strenuous activity

Before you go on a run for hours on end, haul in a heavy item into your apartment, or just about any physically straining activity, warm up! 

Don’t shock your knees into a strenuous situation because that, right there, is a recipe for an injury. It takes a second to sprain or fracture yourself and can take weeks to months to recover. So spare yourself the trouble and warm up.

Here are some quick warm-up exercises you can do:





Keep away from inflammatory food

Some food ingredients make you more prone to inflammation than others. Your diet can harm or heal you so it’s important to watch out what you eat, too. 

Sugar, saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and gluten can trigger knee pain and inflammation for the older age group. These foods can also slow down the healing process if you’re recovering from an injury. Support your body and keep away from inflammatory food ingredients.

Properly address your knee pain

Feeling a pinch or an ache in your knee? Don’t brush off minor pain and have it checked before it gets worse. If you feel like you’ve sprained your knee, apply the PRICE method immediately. 

PRICE stands for: 

P - Protect the injured area

R - Rest from any strenuous activity

I - Ice for 20 minutes at a time

C - Compress to decrease swelling

E - Elevate to keep the blood flow away from the injury

Apply first aid for knee injuries and always be vigilant. 

Use hot and cold therapy for knee injuries

Hot and cold therapy are effective methods for natural pain relief when you have an injury. Use a cold pack for bruises and swelling brought about by sprains and strains. For spasms and muscle stiffness, you can use a hot pack to dilate the blood vessels and ease pain. 

If you have chronic knee pain or are recovering from a serious injury, cold packs are great medical devices to support your recovery and manage your symptoms.


Final Thoughts

Your knee joint is one of the most powerful joints in your body. It allows you to stretch, bend, run, and jump -  but it also is one of the most vulnerable. 

Getting to know how your knee works allows you to take better care of it and protect yourself from any preventable injuries. 

Getting to know how your knee works allows you to take better care of it and protect yourself from any preventable injuries. 

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