Plica syndrome: Signs, symptoms and treatment of this uncomfortable knee pain

The plica are connective tissue in the knee that exist in all fetuses, but they normally recede to small bands of tissue in adults. They have no significant function, but they can become inflamed and serve as a source of pain in active people.

Signs and symptoms of plica syndrome in the knee

Typically athletic individuals with plica syndrome complain of pain on the medial side of the knee, just inside of the patella (kneecap). If your plica is inflamed and swollen, you might notice a snapping sensation as the plica rubs across the knee with knee motion.

Do you have knee pain, or have you suffered a knee injury? Watch this video series on knee injuries in sports and exercise!

Diagnosis of a painful plica

The diagnosis of plica syndrome is often made by exclusion after a sports medicine physician rules out structural problems like meniscal tears. X-rays are usually normal. The doctor might order an MRI to rule out a meniscal tear or other pathology.

Plica
Pain from a plica is most often felt on the medial side of the knee above the joint line (white arrow).

Treatment of a plica in the knee

Treatment of a painful plica is usually nonsurgical. Anti-inflammatory medications and ice can help. You can play sports and participate in desired exercise activities if you can tolerate the symptoms. Occasionally the physician might inject cortisone into the plica to try to calm down the inflammation. He might also recommend physical therapy for exercises and possibly ultrasound or other modalities. Occasionally surgery to remove the plica can be performed, although recovery from that surgery can take longer than many patients expect.

In this video, I discuss the common signs and symptoms of an inflamed plica and how you can find out if a plica could be the cause of your knee pain.

Also read:
X-rays play an important role in the evaluation of knee pain
5 common running injuries

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