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.

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

Please remember, while I appreciate your questions, I cannot and will not offer specific medical advice by email, online, on my show, or in the comments at the end of these posts. My responses are meant to provide general medical information and education. Please consult your physician or health care provider for your specific medical concerns.

Leave a reply

Please note: I cannot and will not provide specific medical information within these comments, just as I won't anywhere else. Also, I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or spam. If you have questions, please read My Comments Policy.

david-headshot I am an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina.

On this blog, on my podcast, and in articles for numerous publications and in media interviews, I aim to provide you leading commentary and education on injury treatment and prevention to keep you performing at your best! Learn more about me >>


I'm excited to help with information and interviews for print, radio, television, and online media. Media information >>


Writing I write articles and columns for a number of publications and organizations. Writing information >>
Sports Medicine Simplified: A Glossary of Sports Injuries, Treatments, Prevention and Much More

Learn more about the glossary >>
© 2017 Dr. David Geier Enterprises, LLC

Site Designed by Launch Yourself