What is Plica Syndrome and How do You Know You Have It?

So, you’ve noticed some knee pain lately. It feels achy in general and hurts when you take the stairs. Sometimes when you get up from a chair, the knee tends to “lock up.” Is it arthritis? Is it a torn knee meniscus? Or is it plica syndrome?

The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI), a leading regenerative medicine clinic in the U.S., sees a lot of joint injuries to the hips, knees, feet and ankles on a weekly basis. So they know a thing or two about knee pain and what causes it. Plica syndrome is a unique condition that affects the membrane that surrounds the knee joint.

If you haven’t heard of plica syndrome, you’re not alone. So the physicians and physical therapists at NSI offer this article to help you recognize plica symptoms and when you should seek medical attention.

Plica Syndrome Basics

The word plica is Latin, meaning “fold.” This is a descriptive term rather than a literal one, since the plica doesn’t actually fold over anything. The pica lies across the membrane that surrounds the knee joint. This fluid-filled membrane is called the synovial membrane, and it helps to cushion and protect the knee joint.

During human fetal development, there are actually three plica capsules that form around the knee joint as it develops. Together, they’re known as the synovial plicae. These are generally absorbed prior to birth. The plica fold within the membrane is the remains of that fetal knee growth stage. But, sometimes, the synovial plicae are not fully absorbed and significant remnants remain with the person throughout their lives.

Plica syndrome is an inflammation that affects the kneecap.

When one of the plicae becomes inflamed, the condition is known as plica syndrome. In most cases, plica syndrome occurs because of an injury. The most common plica syndrome happens at the middle of the kneecap. This is called medial plica syndrome.

Knee pain is the most common of plica symptoms. But not all knee pain is due to plica syndrome. How can you tell the difference? Plica syndrome pain includes:

  • An achiness, rather than a pain that is sharp or shooting
  • The pain worsens when you climb stairs, squat, or bend
  • The knee “catches” or “locks” when you leave a chair after sitting for long durations
  • Long periods of sitting causes knee trouble
  • The knee “clicks” or “cracks” while you are bending or extending it
  • The knee has a sensation of weakness and “giving out” when you put weight on it
  • Lack of stability while climbing stairs or walking up a slope
  • The plica feels swollen and tender or painful when you press the injure kneecap.

The Causes of Plica Syndrome

Plica syndrome is almost always caused by injury. When the knee is over-stressed or over-used, the pica can become inflamed. Improper form during exercise, hyper-extension, and excessive repetition of bending and straightening of the knee can all lead to plica syndrome.

For example, you might experience plica symptoms after a long run or series of runs, intense spinning classes, physically challenging bike runs, or prolonged periods on a stair-climbing machine. But falls or trauma to the knee during a car accident are also common causes of plica syndrome.

How Plica Syndrome is Diagnosed

As with all injuries, diagnosing plica syndrome begins with a physical exam performed by a physician. Doing so helps to rule out other injury-related possibilities such as:

Be as thorough as possible when telling your doctor what sports, workouts, and activities you engage in. When diagnosing plica syndrome, it’s also important to let your doctor know about any recent accidents or injuries you’ve sustained that involved the knee. It’s not unusual for physicians to recommend an MRI or X-ray in order to better assess your plica symptoms.

Exercises to Help Relieve Plica Syndrome Pain

By and large, plica syndrome responds very well to physical therapy or an in-home exercise regimen. In either case, the therapeutic exercises will include those that stretch the hamstrings and strengthen the quadriceps. Relief of plica symptoms and pain is generally felt within 6 to 8 weeks of beginning therapy or an exercise regimen.

Quadriceps Strengthening

The quadriceps is the main muscle group that makes up the musculature of your front thigh. How can these muscles affect plica syndrome? They are indirectly, but significantly, attached to the medial plica. When the quadriceps are weak, irritation and/or injury to the plicae is more likely to occur.

Methods to strengthen the quadriceps include:

Quadriceps sets

Straight leg raises

Leg presses

Mini squats

Hamstring Stretches

The back of the thighs is where your hamstrings are. This muscle group runs from the pelvis to the shin bones. They are essential in the act of bending the knee. Overly tight hamstrings often play a role is developing plica syndrome.

Particularly if you are already experiencing plica symptoms, it is recommended that a physical therapist take you through several stretches before attempting them on your own. Once you learn the proper form, the majority of hamstring stretches can be performed whether you’re sitting down or standing up.

Corticosteroid Injections, Stem Cell Therapy, & Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy

Corticosteroid injections should be done only when absolutely necessary. Many physicians prefer administering stem cell therapy or platelet-rich plasma therapy for severe plica syndrome, because side effects and/or long-term effects are virtually nil.

Regardless of the therapeutic injection option, you will want to continue to incorporate stretching exercises. In the case of corticosteroids, the steroids are a temporary fix. Without keeping up exercises, your plica symptoms will return. In the case of stem cell or platelet rich plasma therapies, healing is ongoing and doesn’t “wear off” like the corticosteroids but the strengthening exercises help prevent re-injury in the future.

Surgical Procedures

Surgery should be performed only as a last resort for plica syndrome. The surgery will most likely be done through arthroscopy. This is a procedure in which the surgeon inserts a tiny camera called an arthroscope through a small incision. Miniscule surgical tools are inserted via another small cut. The plica will either be removed or its position will be adjusted.

Even if surgery is necessary, many physicians still use stem cell and/or platelet rich plasma therapies post-surgery in order to speed healing, promote new cell growth, and shorten the duration of post-surgical physical therapy.

Bottom Line: Plica Syndrome Can be Successfully Treated

The good news about plica syndrome is that, no matter the severity, plica symptoms can be treated and the vast majority of sufferers fully recover from the injury. Overwhelmingly, plica syndrome can be resolved through physical therapy and home exercises. But even in severe cases, regenerative methods like stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies can virtually eliminate the need for surgery.

Plica syndrome can manifest as a constellation of pain and symptoms that are usually caused by a sudden traumatic injury to the knee or because of intense repetitive actions, over-use, or hyper-extension.

If you have any questions regarding plica syndrome or concerns that you are exhibiting plica symptoms, the medical staff at the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) is happy to answer them.

The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) is a leading regenerative medicine cell clinic based in the United States. NSI specializes in stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy. From diseases like diabetes and COPD to injuries of the spine and joints, NSI has helped patients recover from disease, heal from injury, and improve quality of life.

NSI is a fully licensed regenerative medicine facility that strictly adheres to FDA guidelines. NSI encourages the public to call with any questions regarding stem cell therapy and how it may pertain to any health concerns. Below, NSI offers tips on selecting the right stem cell clinic for you.

What to Look for in a Stem Cell Medical Clinic

When searching for a qualified stem cell therapy center it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equal. Stem cells, when used properly, are your body’s most powerful means for healing that can repair everything from ligaments, tendons and cartilage to organs including your liver, pancreas and lungs and even neurological tissue like your brain, nerves and spinal cord.

Unfortunately, the majority of so called “regenerative medicine clinics” in the world aren’t trained in the latest, most technologically advanced procedures and will therefore provide poor results if any.

The good news is the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) has established the most advanced stem cell and platelet rich plasma procedures on the planet which has drawn patients from all over the world as well as professional athletes and celebrities because they are recognized as the best in the world at stem cell therapy.

What makes NSI Stem Cell the top stem cell clinic in the world is demonstrated in 5 key areas:

  1. Highly trained and experienced, board certified doctors and team members who have performed stem cell procedures on thousands of patients with incredible results.
  2. Cutting edge procedures utilizing all that regenerative medicine has to offer for many chronic degenerative conditions.
  3. Leading scientific researchers who follow the advanced FDA guidelines to maximize the healing potential of your stem cells and to maintain compliance and ethics.
  4. Use of only the most potent and viable resource of living, viable stem cells (adipose or fat) and harvested on the same day. No vial that you can purchase will contain living stem cells. If there is no harvest then there are no stem cells.
  5. Post-operative guidance for supporting stem-cell growth including rehabilitation, diet and supplement protocols. NSI is a full service health care center focused on patient outcomes. Stem cell therapy is only one tool used to help improve patients’ lives.

Patients have raved about their experience at NSI Stem Cell Clinics testifying that it was their unique cutting edge treatments that helped them experience a breakthrough when nothing else worked and helped them avoid surgery and side effects of other treatments.

If you want to learn more about NSI Stem Cell Clinics and see for yourself why people travel from all of the globe for treatment you can setup a complimentary consultation today to see if you are a candidate for their world renown stem cell therapy. You can contact the National Stem Cell Institute at (877) 278-3623.

What is Plica Syndrome? was last modified: by
* Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary. As each patient’s problem is different, each treatment must be tailored around your specific needs.