What are Meniscus injuries?
The lateral and medial menisci are C-shaped and made of tough, rubbery fibrocartilage. They are located within the knee joint and function like washers, helping with shock absorption and aiding joint stability. Meniscus can be damage fro trauma or acute injuries or they can be chronic and damaged over time.
Signs and Symptoms of Meniscus injuries
In acute tears, it is a sudden sharp pain often during a twisting or combined movement. Depending on the severity swelling may be associated after the injury.
In degenerative tears, there may not be a specific incident.
Pain is often felt twisting, turning, walking on uneven ground or changing directions. Clicking, locking or a feeling of “giving way” can also be associated with meniscus injuries.
Bucket-handle meniscal injuries are a particular (severe) form of acute meniscal injury where a torn portion folds and gets stuck within the joint. This causes the knee to become locked in a certain position.
Causes of Meniscus injuries
Acute injuries: these mainly occur with sudden movements involving rotation, generally while the foot is in contact with the ground, as can happen in sport. This force can cause an acute meniscal tear. Sometimes this happens in conjunction with a knee ligament injury. Meniscal injuries vary in severity depending on the size and location of the tear within the meniscus.
Degenerative injuries: as we age, the meniscal cartilage gradually thins and becomes a little less robust. Degenerative meniscal tears therefore sometimes happen without a memorable incident or can become apparent with a relatively minor twisting movement.
Injuries to the articular cartilage also occur in several ways:
Treatment for meniscus injuries
Treatment will vary depending on the type of meniscus injury an individual has.
- Strength program. Commonly correcting biomechanics, restoring full range of movement and beginning a strength program will be involved in the treatment of a meniscus injury.
- Icing, activity modification and rehabilitation. In the first few weeks following an acute meniscal injury, the knee is often quite inflamed. You can help you settle your knee using strategies such as ice, activity reduction and gentle pain-free strength exercises to prevent muscle weakness developing. Once your knee has settled, your physiotherapist can guide you through a rehabilitation program of exercises and progressive return to full activity.
- Possibly surgery. If the knee continues to have significant mechanical symptoms (painful clicking, locking or catching) once the initial inflammatory period has settled, and despite a structured program of physiotherapy, your physiotherapist may recommend you consult a sports doctor or orthopaedic surgeon.
In the case of a bucket-handle meniscal tear, early surgical repair of the meniscus is required to allow the joint to regain movement and to preserve the meniscus. Following such surgery, physiotherapy rehabilitation is essential to safely regain full strength and knee function.