Meniscal injuries are one of the more common knee injuries. They can happen in people both young and old, and people that are active and inactive. A tear of the meniscus can limit your ability to participate in daily tasks such as walking, getting in and out of chairs, and stairs.
A meniscus is a wedge shaped piece of cartilage that provides cushion between the femur and the tibia at the knee joint. Its job is to "cushion" the knee joint, acting as a "shock-absorber."
Meniscus tears can occur in many ways. It is often injured during activity that involves a bending and twisting motion like rebounding a basketball. As we age, the meniscus can tear without a large, obvious injury, which is referred to as a degenerative tear. It is often injured along with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and the medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Symptoms of a meniscus tear include pain, swelling, sensations of "popping," "clicking," and "locking," limitations in range of motion, and difficulty walking.
Medical providers are able to diagnose meniscus tears through:
- Patient History
- Palpation of the Knee Joint Line
- Physical Exam
- Imaging Studies (Radiographs & MRI)
Treatment of a meniscus tear often depends on three factors: type, side, and location. Some parts of the meniscus have better blood supplies than others, and those areas may heal on their own. You may rest, ice, and elevate during that time, or attend physical therapy. However, some tears require surgery. Often an orthopedic surgeon will perform a "meniscectomy" where the torn portion of the meniscus is removed, or a "meniscal repair" where the torn portion is reattached. Other factors that contribute to choice of treatment include age, activity level, and previous surgical history.
Following surgery, you will likely attend physical therapy. In physical therapy, you will focus on controlling pain behaviors, reduce swelling, improve motion, strength, and walking ability. Recovery time can range from 6-12 weeks depending on the extent of your injury and the level of activity you wish to return to.
As a meniscus tear is often caused by a bending and twisting motion, it is possible to help prevent injury through movement training. Movement training focuses on using optimal movement strategies in order to maintain stability during these motions.