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My Knee Keeps Buckling: What Should I Do?

My Knee Keeps Buckling: What Should I Do?

You joke about a trick knee that gives out from time to time, causing you to stumble and lose your balance. That stumble can turn into a damaging fall, so it’s important to figure out why your knee is buckling. In fact, among adults over 65 in the United States, there are 36 million falls each year, and knee buckling is certainly responsible for its fair share.

As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulders and knees, Dr. William Schell is quite familiar with the many conditions that can lead to knee buckling, as well as the appropriate treatments.

Here, we explore the most common causes of knee buckling and how we can help you stay on your feet.

Understanding knee buckling

When we say knee buckling, we’re referring to an instability in your knee that causes it to give out. This type of buckling isn’t necessarily accompanied by pain in your knee, and it often occurs without warning.

If this happens once or twice, there may not be cause for concern, but if your knee frequently buckles, it’s time to get to the bottom of the problem.

Common causes of knee buckling

There are several culprits when it comes to knee buckling, including ligament and meniscus tears, arthritis, nerve damage, and plica syndrome.

Ligament tears

Your knee contains several ligaments that provide stability to the large joint, including your:

Each of these ligaments stabilizes your knee in specific ways, and if one is damaged or torn, it can lead to an unstable knee.

Meniscus tears

Your meniscus is a wedge-shaped piece of cartilage in your knee (there are two in each knee), that provides cushioning and support. If this tissue is damaged, it can lead to catching or locking in the joint.


If you have arthritis in your knees, it can lead to a stiff knee that may “lock up.” As well, degenerative forms of arthritis can lead to loose bodies within the joint, such as pieces of cartilage, that can cause your knee to become unstable.

Nerve damage

If you have nerve damage in your knees, such as that caused by diabetic neuropathy or multiple sclerosis, it can lead to knee buckling.

Plica syndrome

Your knee has a protective membrane that covers it, and this membrane has four folds in the tissue called plicas. With plica syndrome, the tissue becomes inflamed, which can lead to buckling in the affected knee.

Restoring stability

To prevent your knee from buckling, our first step is to determine the underlying cause. After an extensive evaluation, including advanced imaging, we locate the problem and tailor a treatment plan that will best restore stability, which might include:

It’s difficult to say here what your treatment might be, but, rest assured that we work diligently to restore strength and stability in your knee.

To get back to being steady on your feet, please contact our New York City office on the Upper West Side on Columbus Circle.

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