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What can I do About Knee Buckling?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Knee buckling, a condition in which the knee seems to collapse suddenly from instability, can be caused by any number of medical conditions, from arthritis to an unstable kneecap. After identifying the exact cause of the weakness, a medical professional can prescribe a regimen of physical therapy and medication to help. Though surgery is the only option to correct the problem in some cases, you may be able to get relief by changing your diet and fitness routine. Before getting a diagnosis, you can use a cane and rest more than normal to minimize the chances of making the damage worse. Alternating between hot and cold compresses also can help with any pain and swelling.

Identifying the Cause

The first thing to do when your knees start to buckle is to identify the cause. Healthcare providers can pinpoint the area of weakness using a physical examination and imaging studies, which helps them find out why it's happening. The most common causes of knee buckling are conditions that damage the joints, like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and chondrocalcinosis, which is a condition in which calcium builds up in knee cartilage, causing it to become inflamed. Osteoporosis could also cause degeneration of the bones in the knee, which can also lead to buckling.

An unstable kneecap, is another common cause of knee buckling, particularly in those with no degenerative condition or injuries. This also may cause the kneecap to visibly shift away from its natural groove and the knee itself to feel as if it were creaking or crunching against other bones when moved. Additionally, injuries to the knees can cause them to buckle, particularly if the ligaments or surrounding supportive muscles are damaged.


After determining the location and cause, medical professionals generally prescribe pain medication like acetaminophen, or a stronger Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). Topical pain-relieving creams can also relieve some of the pain associated with joint damage. If you have arthritis, a healthcare professional might also recommend injections of steroids or hyaluronan. Other medications, called Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs), can help with certain types of arthritis, like the psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis.

Physical Therapy

Along with medication, you can use physical therapy to strengthen your knees. Therapists recommend certain types of stretches and exercises for knee buckling, especially those that stretch and strengthen the muscles supporting the knees, buttocks, and core muscles. One of the most commonly recommended exercises is to sit in a chair with a light weight on the ankle of the affected leg, lift the lower leg to make it straight with the rest of the leg, hold it there for a few seconds, and release it back to the ground. This strengthens the quadriceps, which help keep the knee stable. Physical therapists also usually recommend exercises that work the cardiovascular system but don't over-stress the knee, like swimming or using an elliptical machine.

Lifestyle Changes and Supplements

Lifestyle changes can also help some people with this condition. People who are overweight are more prone to knee buckling, so if you are overweight then losing weight and taking supplements to promote joint health often helps. You may also benefit from joint-strengthening supplements, such as vitamin C and D if you are elderly, since joints tend to deteriorate with age. Many healthcare professionals also recommend supplementing with glucosamine, an amino sugar derived from the exoskeletons of crustaceans that helps with joint pain.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat knee buckling. This is particularly true if you have loose fragments of bone or tissue in the knee joint that interfere with its functioning. As the fragments float around, they trigger a sudden failure of the joint, causing the knee to buckle when walking or even standing.

During surgery, a surgeon removes fragments from the knee and repairs any damage that may have already occurred to ligaments or other tissue. This can be done as an out-patient arthroscopic surgery, in which two small incisions on either side of the kneecap are the only access the surgeon needs for miniaturized cameras and tools. More invasive surgeries, like a partial or total knee replacement, might be needed, however, when damage is more widespread.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon345000 — On Aug 14, 2013

I had knee trouble. I was in the garden about two years ago when I was like 11. I did a cartwheel, stood up and my knee made a big cracking sound. I then realized it wouldn't bend, or straighten and I stood there, screaming for help. I had to limp when I walked and it really did hurt me. I went to the doctor the next day after school, and they gave me a tubigrip, some tablets to take, and some special cream stuff that didn't work either. It took weeks and weeks to repair. I thought I needed surgery, but the doctors said it was just my knee was growing too fast for my muscles and they kept snapping off the bone. When I started hockey again, I thought it was OK until the same thing happened again and I couldn't move it!

Now I'm 13 years old, and it only gives way every few months, and it doesn't trouble me at all!

By anon342767 — On Jul 23, 2013

My knees hurt. They burn and sting and feel very hot. I had a total knee replacement nine years ago and had tests done. The doctor could not find anything wrong, so what can I do? What can the doctor do?

By lalitsantosh — On Apr 18, 2013

Six months ago, I suffered pain in my left knee, because I slipped while bowling (cricket). Since then, I've been feeling pain whenever I start running and am unable to do stretching exercises. What should I do now?

By anon273513 — On Jun 07, 2012

I'm turning 13 and my knee starts buckling whenever I do or try my best at a sport. It really does stink. And is this normal for a 12 year old? I am turning 13 pretty soon though but I guess it started when I was about 11 or turning 11. --D

By anon180288 — On May 26, 2011

@anon166714: I have the same problem. Sometimes, whenever i walk, my right knee just gives out on me. I also have some painful pullings in the back of my knee cape once in a while and i want to know what it is, although I'm not a person to go to a doctor immediately, so if you've figured it out, let me know or anybody else, for that matter.

By anon171258 — On Apr 29, 2011

My left knee buckled today and it scared me. I'm taking three different kinds of meds. I'm just wondering if that is causing the problem.

By anon166714 — On Apr 09, 2011

Knee buckling doesn't always hurt, and it isn't always caused by an injury. My left knee, in particular, started just randomly going out once in a while around four years ago. It never hurts; it's never had an injury of consequence I can now remember. Also, there's no feeling of anything moving around in there; it just abruptly buckles painlessly. Strangest thing. If I concentrate on my knees as I walk it doesn't do it, but if my mind is elsewhere, it takes me by surprise.

By anon149743 — On Feb 05, 2011

I twisted my knee badly in 1996 and wrapped it with an ace bandage. It seemed to get better, then in 2006 it started "buckling" with extreme pain toward the inside of my knee and tibia area.

The orthopedist cleaned it out and then it buckled and I was on crutches for four months. Stationary biking six days a week and rooster comb shots (3) seemed to do the trick for four years. Now my knee is buckling again but I have not been biking. Besides a full knee stabilizer brace, does anyone know of another brace that would keep it from buckling? I am back in Physical Therapy and biking once again.

By anon140917 — On Jan 09, 2011

My first bout of buckling was a week ago, when i got down from my bed. My left knee buckled and scared me as I braced myself to the bed. After a few flexings, I slowly stood up. Anyway, it's getting fixed in my subconscious mind, telling me to be careful.

I am 64 years old and a diabetic also and I experience gouty problems in my the base of my left big toe.

By yournamehere — On Dec 28, 2010

Could you give me some more information about knee buckles treatments? My grandfather has recently started having trouble walking, and we're not sure if it's because of an old knee injury, or whether he's experiencing the pain and buckling because of gout or another condition.

Thankfully he's not experiencing much pain in his knee, but it is scary for him to not know when his legs are going to give out.

We'd really like to avoid any kind of knee arthroscopy or surgical treatment, but it is getting to the point where we're going to have to do something just so he can get around.

Do you have any advice about knee treatments, or maybe some knee exercises that I could do with him to help him get more strength in his knees?

Thank you.

By Charlie89 — On Dec 28, 2010

Do you know, I used to have the most random knee buckles when I was younger? I was taking a muscle relaxant to help me sleep, and whenever I would get up in the mornings it was so funny, because my knees would just totally give out the first few times I tried to walk.

The first time it happened I totally wiped out on the floor, but after a few days, I figured out that if I waited for a while, and then slowly started moving my legs to let them "wake up" then I could get up without buckles.

Isn't it so funny how one little malfunctioning part of the body can cause so much trouble?

By StreamFinder — On Dec 27, 2010

You're right, those things can be painful! I have never had any problems with my knees (knock on wood), but my husband has to wear a knee brace when he exercises now to avoid random knee buckles because of chronic knee strain when he was younger.

It's really pretty crazy, because he hasn't been an athlete for years (that's how he got the knee strain), and even after three tries at knee rehabilitation, he still gets knee buckles every once in a while.

The doctors say that there's not really anything they can do about it, that the knee is just too damaged to entirely prepare without a very extensive surgery, so for now, we're just doing our best to avoid the knee buckles.

Anybody else having any problems like this?

By anon113036 — On Sep 22, 2010

I am on pain management, and I take a soma and a xanax to sleep. My buckling occurs 99 percent of the time when I rise in the middle of the night.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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