Meniscus tears are a common knee injury, often seen in athletes, including those who participate in contact sports. However, meniscus tears can occur in individuals of any age. When people refer to torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually talking about a torn meniscus.
Anatomy of the Knee
The knee joint consists of two bones: the femur and the tibia. The kneecap (patella) is positioned in front of the joint to provide some protection. Between the femur and tibia, there are two wedge-shaped fibrocartilage structures called menisci. These act as shock absorbers, aiding in weight transfer and contributing to knee stability.
Description of Meniscus Tears
Meniscus tears can result from acute trauma or degenerative changes that occur over time. The tears can vary in appearance and location within the meniscus. Common types include bucket handle, flap, and radial tears. In sports, meniscus injuries are often associated with other knee conditions, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
Causes of Meniscus Tears
Acute meniscus tears frequently occur in sports and can result from contact or non-contact injuries, such as rotational or cutting movements. Degenerative meniscus tears become more common with age, as the tissue becomes weaker and more prone to injury. In some cases, even a simple twist when getting out of a chair can cause a tear in an aged meniscus.
Symptoms of Meniscus Tears
A pop sound may be heard at the time of injury. Many people can still walk or continue playing sports after the tear, but the knee gradually becomes stiffer and swollen over the next few days.
Physical Examination by a Doctor
After discussing your symptoms and medical history, your doctor will examine your knee. They will evaluate tenderness at the joint line where the meniscus is located, which is often an indication of a tear. The McMurray test is a common diagnostic test for meniscus injuries. It involves bending, straightening, and rotating the knee to put strain on a damaged meniscus, which may cause pain, clicking, or a clunking sensation in the joint.
To confirm the diagnosis and rule out other knee conditions with similar symptoms, your doctor may order imaging studies:
X-rays: x-rays provide images of dense materials like bone. Although an X-ray will not reveal a torn meniscus, your doctor may prescribe one to rule out other reasons of knee discomfort, such as osteoarthritis.
Scanners for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI scan is commonly used to evaluate the soft tissues in the knee joint, including the menisci, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Treatment of Meniscus Tears
The recommended treatment for a meniscus tear depends on several factors, including age, symptoms, level of activity, and the type, size, and location of the injury.
Many meniscus tears do not require immediate surgery. If your symptoms are not worsening and you do not experience locking or swelling in your knee, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatment options.
RICE: The RICE regimen is often beneficial for sports-related injuries:
- Rest: Avoid activities that aggravate the injury, and your doctor may suggest using crutches to avoid putting weight on the leg.
- Ice: Apply cold packs several times a day for 20 minutes each time. Be sure to wrap the ice pack in a cloth to prevent direct contact with the skin.
- Compression: Use an elastic compression bandage to reduce swelling and provide support.
- Elevation: Keep your leg elevated above heart level while resting to reduce swelling.
Meniscus tears are a common knee injury, but with proper diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, most patients regain their pre-injury abilities. It is important to wear appropriate footwear, such as DrLuigi medical shoes, during the recovery process to support the healing knee and provide stability.
Remember to consult with your healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalised treatment plan based on your specific condition.