Article by John Miller
What is a Plica?
A plica is a fold of synovial membrane most commonly in the anteromedial aspect of the knee. A plica is present in about 50% of the population and is thought to be the remnants of embryonic connective tissue that failed to fully resorb during your foetal development. Luckily, most plicae are asymptomatic.
While your knee potentially has four plicae it is the medial plica that is most likely to be symptomatic (Dupont 1997). It runs parallel to your medial patella just below your medial retinaculum and inserts into your fat pad.
What is Plica Syndrome?
Plica syndrome is essentially an inflamed plica. Your plica can catch during:
This is particularly the case if you have experienced persistent pain and weakness in the quadriceps muscles. Plica syndrome often does not always occur in isolation, but concurrently with other knee conditions such as meniscal injuries, patellar tendonitis and Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.
What are the Symptoms of Plica Syndrome?
Plica syndrome can be suspected when you have:
How is Plica Syndrome Diagnosed?
Your physiotherapist will be able to clinically diagnose plica syndrome. It is more important that you have your knee thoroughly assessed by a physiotherapist or sports doctor to exclude other knee pathologies, in particular, meniscal injuries.
An x-ray may be useful to rule out other associated pathologies but will not identify a plica. MRIs can identify plica inflammation. However, MRI is more useful for diagnosing other pathologies that may be related to the plica irritation. A comprehensive examination by your physiotherapist or sports physician is preferable.
Plica Syndrome Treatment
Studies show that about 60% of patients with plica syndrome will settle successfully with conservative physiotherapy treatment within 6 to 8 weeks. (Lu et al 2010).
Your physiotherapy treatment will aim to:
We strongly suggest that you discuss your knee injury after a thorough examination by a knee clinician such as a sports physiotherapist, sports physician or knee surgeon.
Should your symptoms persist beyond 3 to 6 months, arthroscopic knee surgery for a plica syndrome may be considered. The most successful surgery involves lateral retinaculum release to allow the patella to track more medially and thereby alleviate plica irritation as it rolls over the medial femoral condyle. Success rates exceed 85%. (Gerbino et al 2007).
How to Prevent Plica Syndrome?
Since plica syndrome usually occurs concomitantly with other knee conditions, it is important to be proactive in managing your other knee injuries. This involves maintaining normal knee joint alignment, adequate strength and flexibility in the muscles around the knee joint plus the rest of the lower limb.
Ensuring that you wear adequate footwear that supports your foot biomechanics. Also, weight-management can play a role in the pressure exerted on lower limb joints, and thus should be something considered as a long-term preventative measure.
For more advice, please consult your physiotherapist.
Braces for Plica Irritation
Many patients will try a knee brace. A brace that improves patellofemoral joint alignment seems to be the most effective to ease the plica-related pain.
An effective patellofemoral brace can be useful as an alternative to kneecap taping.
More information or to purchase online: Plica Braces
Excellent for stretching your tight thigh structures: ITB, quadriceps and hamstrings.
More AdviceFor more advice, please consult your knee physiotherapist.
Plica Syndrome Treatment Options
FAQs about Plica Syndrome
Helpful Products for Plica Syndrome
Knee Ligament Injuries
Children's Knee Conditions
Other Knee-Related Conditions
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