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St. Lucie Medical Center
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St. Lucie Medical Center Emergency Room at Darwin Square
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Understanding How the Knee Works

A joint is formed by 2 or more bones that are connected by thick bands of tissue called ligaments. The knee is the largest joint in the body and is made up of three main parts:

  • The lower end of the thigh bone, or femur
  • The upper end of the shin bone, or tibia
  • The kneecap, or patella

The thigh bone (femur) turns on the upper end of the shin bone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella) slides in a groove on the end of the thigh bone. Ligaments, which are bands of tissue, connect the thigh bone and the shin bone to help keep the knee joint steady. The quadriceps, the long muscles on the front of the thigh, help strengthen the knee.

A smooth substance called articular cartilage covers the surface of the bones where they touch each other within the joint. This articular cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones. The rest of the surfaces of the knee joint are covered by a thin, smooth tissue liner called synovial membrane, which makes a small amount of fluid that acts as a lubricant so that the joint bones will not rub against each other.