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Your knees are an important part of walking, running and moving around every day. From dancing and jumping to kicking and kneeling, they provide the stability that allows your legs to move in many directions.

One of the largest joints in the body, the knee is a ‘weight bearing’ joint that is crucial to many movements. Bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons work together to help your legs function properly. The knee connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone), and together with the fibula and patella (kneecap) make up the knee joint.

Bending your knee is called “flexion,” and straightening your knee is called “extension.”

Here are some other important parts of the knee to know:

  • Articular cartilage – this firm, white material covers the ends of the bones
  • Menisci – these extra cartilage pads between the thigh bone and lower leg bone (inside the knee) help absorb shock and keep the bones from grinding against each other. There are two (medial and lateral) in each knee
  • MCL (medial collateral ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament) – these ligaments help hold the knees intact by limiting sideways motion
  • PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) – these ligaments help control forward and backward movements
  • Bursae – these fluid-filled sacs enable the knee joints to move smoothly
  • Quadriceps – these muscles at the front of the thigh is connected to the patella tendon and helps you straighten your leg
  • Hamstrings – these muscles attach to the tibia and help you bend your knee

Because the knee is such a complex joint, knee pain is very common and there can be many causes – from injuries to mechanical problems to arthritis and more.

More on the knee


September 24, 2019

A picture/movie of the inside of the knee would be very helpful to visualize what and where these bones, ligament, cartilage and tendons do and where located. Thanks for the info presented.
- DM Wilson
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 25, 2019

Thanks DM.

July 18, 2014

Excellent information for non-medicals as well
- Praveen Rai
Reply From: OrthoCarolina

September 25, 2019

Thanks Praveen