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Locked Knees: Everything You Need To Know


The complexity of the knee is impressive.  

It joins the shin bone to the thigh bone with an intricate network of cartilage, tendons, muscles, and blood vessels that work together to create stability and power and absorb shock. Its role is paramount to smooth walking, weight bearing, and activities such as jumping, squatting, and climbing stairs. 

Our knees normally bend and straighten, and they can twist and rotate to a small extent. Sometimes, these functions are lost, which can cause the knee to lock up. When something goes wrong with the knee, it can not only cause discomfort and reduce your mobility, but it can greatly affect your ability to carry out what you need and love to do every day. 

If your knee is unable to move as it should and is locking in a bent or straight position, it can greatly affect your life. Find out what locked knee is, what causes knee locking, and how physiotherapy can help.


What Is Locked Knee?

Our knees are put under a lot of stress and strain throughout the day. Subsequently, wear and tear and injuries are common, and these can lead to the inability to move your knee. Pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness can accompany this issue. 

Locked knee can be categorised into two types: a true locked knee and a pseudo locked knee.

True Locked Knee

If you are completely unable to move your knee joint and it is stuck in one position, it is classed as a true locked knee. This position may be bent or straight.

There are many reasons why true locked knee may occur. Some of these include:

  • Loose elements in the knee, such as fragments of bone or cartilage. These can become embedded in the joint. This can occur due to issues such as osteoarthritis and trauma.
  • Dislocation of the patella. If the kneecap, also known as the patella, is moved out of place during an accident, the knee can become locked in an extended position.
  • Meniscal tears. There are pieces of cartilage, known as menisci, that sit either side of the knee joint to provide a cushioning, shock-absorbing effect between the shin and thigh joints. These can tear due to a sudden or forceful rotation of the knee, overuse, or degeneration, which can result in a lock or pieces of the meniscus to become trapped in the joint.


Pseudo Locked Knee

If you are physically able to move your knee but it causes a lot of pain and movement is difficult, it is classed as a pseudo locked knee. The muscles in the knee may tighten, swell, and spasm, also impacting the ability to bend and straighten your knee. 

A pseudo locked knee is your body’s way of protecting your knee to promote healing and prevent additional damage. You may experience a catching sensation when moving, a popping noise, or weakness and instability that collapses your knee when weight bearing.

Pseudo locked knee can be caused by a variety of injuries or degeneration, such as:

  • Impact accidents.
  • Issues with the patellar, such as maltracking.
  • Conditions such as joint diseases like osteoarthritis.
  • Inflammation of the soft tissue due to issues such as plica syndrome or a ligament injury.


Treatment For Locked Knee 

Treating true or pseudo locked knee depends on the cause. Prompt assessment by a doctor and undertaking necessary tests can identify the issue and help in developing a medical and physical therapy treatment plan. 

Treatment may include rest, cold therapy, elevation, compression, or temporary use of pain relief or anti-inflammatory medications. 

Our physiotherapists can help you to regain strength, flexibility, stability, and range of motion during the appropriate phase of recovery by using methods such as: 

  • The prescription of exercises and stretches.
  • Manipulation, manual therapy, or massage. 
  • Strapping, braces, or aids when appropriate, such as for kneecap dislocation.

Certain issues that cause locked knee, such as bone fragments within the knee joint or repetitive patellar dislocation, may require surgery. 

Appropriate care for medical conditions, such as arthritis, can also help you to find relief and prevent pseudo locked knee occurring again. 


Receive Physiotherapy For Locked Knee At NDPE  

A locked knee, whether it is a true or pseudo locked knee, can be painful and debilitating. Receiving medical and physiotherapy care can make a significant and positive difference to your pain, mobility, and functionality. 

If you are experiencing locked knee, please call to make an appointment with one of our experienced and friendly physiotherapists.




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Northern Districts Physiotherapy

Northern Districts Physiotherapy & Sports Clinic was established in 1995 and consists of an energetic team of highly qualified and experienced professionals who take the time to understand ...


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West Ryde NSW 2114

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