Plica syndrome results in pain and swelling in the middle of your knee. It’s usually caused by stress or overuse. In most cases, plica syndrome can be treated successfully with medication and physical therapy, though some people may require surgery.
A plica is a fold in the membrane that protects your knee joint. Most people have four folds in each knee. Sometimes the plica located in the middle of your knee becomes irritated. This is called plica syndrome and it’s characterized by pain, swelling and instability.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Plica syndrome is also called medial plica syndrome. This is because the plica affected is located in the middle (medial) of the knee.
A torn meniscus can cause many of the same symptoms as plica syndrome. However, these are two different conditions. A person with a torn meniscus usually has pain and tenderness at the joint line, while someone with plica syndrome is likely to have pain above the joint line. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to confirm your diagnosis.
Plica syndrome is common among athletes, especially those who run or bike. However, the condition can also be the result of an injury from a fall, car accident or other type of trauma.
According to many experts, about 10% of the population develops plica syndrome at some point. However, it is widely believed that plica syndrome goes undiagnosed in many instances since symptoms are similar to other knee problems.
People with plica syndrome often experience knee pain and localized swelling. There may also be clicking, popping or reduced range of motion.
Yes. Plica syndrome may occur as a result of an accident, such as hitting your knee against the dashboard in a car crash. It also commonly develops in athletes who run or cycle.
People with plica syndrome typically have knee pain. Other common plica syndrome symptoms include:
Your healthcare provider will begin with a physical examination. They’ll also ask questions about your symptoms and health history. In order to rule out other problems, such as tendinitis or a torn meniscus, your healthcare provider may recommend X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
In many cases, plica syndrome can be managed with non-surgical treatments. These include:
If non-surgical treatments don’t help, you may need a type of surgery called arthroscopic resection. During this procedure, your healthcare provider makes a small incision in your knee and inserts a small camera through it. Tiny surgical instruments are inserted through a second incision so the plica can be altered or removed.
As with any surgery, complications can occur following arthroscopic resection. These may include:
To reduce your risk of post-surgical complications, talk to your healthcare provider about your medical history. You should also tell them about any medications or supplements you’re currently taking.
After arthroscopic resection surgery, most people need about six weeks to recover. Healing could take longer depending on the severity of your condition.
Though you can’t prevent plica syndrome altogether, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk. For example:
Most of the time, plica syndrome is easy to manage with exercise and physical therapy. Even if you need surgery, the procedure is less invasive than other types of knee surgery.
If you have pain and swelling — or if you’ve lost range of motion in your knee — call your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment. They can confirm your diagnosis and design a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Plica syndrome can be painful and keep you from the activities you enjoy. Fortunately, the condition can be successfully managed with prompt and proper care. Ask your healthcare provider how to ease your symptoms so you can enjoy life again.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/12/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.