Inside of our knee, a very important structure exists called the meniscus. The meniscus is a C-shaped structure consisting of a tough but pliable material called fibrocartilage that helps to absorb shock, as well as stabilize the knee joint. The meniscus also has a rich blood supply, which helps to nourish the joint cartilage.
A large percentage of our body weight is distributed through the meniscus when we move. Meniscus tears are a fairly common injury, especially in athletes that perform activities that requires twisting and compression. That said, one doesn’t have to incur a major fall or extreme twisting to tear their meniscus. It can occur while running or simply getting up from a squat. In addition, as you age, your meniscus becomes more worn, increasing your risk of injury. Some individuals incur tears gradually over a long period of time.
Athletes with torn menisci may also have an injury to the anterior crucite ligament (ACL).
Symptoms of Meniscus Tear
If you undergo an acute meniscal tear, you may hear a “pop” or feel a tear or rip in the knee. Swelling generally occurs within a few minutes to a couple of hours. In less acute injuries, swelling may not occur. Your knee might feel like it’s catching during movement, or like it’s “out of place”.
You may feel tenderness at the joint line, but many people continue to walk or play their sport with a meniscal tear. Without treatment, however, a fragment of the meniscus may loosen and drift into the joint, causing it to slip, pop, or lock.
If you believe you may be suffering from a meniscal tear, it’s recommended to see a physician right away for treatment. Your orthopedic surgeon may recommend an MRI to determine the type and exact location of injury.
Initial treatment of a meniscal tear is typically nonsurgical, and may include rest, ice, compression and elevation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended for pain. The meniscus has a rich blood supply so the potential exists for it to heal on its own, especially if one has incurred a small tear on the outer edge.
If the tear doesn’t heal, you may need surgery. Depending on the injury, your surgeon may perform arthroscopy, a minimally invasive approach, to repair the damage.
After surgery, you may wear a cast or brace to immobilize your knee. Coordinated rehabilitation is generally recommended before resuming regular activity.