A tear of the medial meniscus is usually caused by a sudden twitching movement. This type of injury can cause considerable pain and swelling of the knee, depending on how severe the injury is. Find out more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition, in this HealthHearty article.
The knee joint contains two fibrocartilaginous structures, which are known as medial and lateral meniscus. The medial meniscus lies inside, between the tibia and the femur. The tibia and the femur are the bones that constitute the knee joint, along with the knee cap or the patella.
The medial meniscus separates these two bones, so as to prevent the friction between them. It is a semicircular or C-shaped cartilage, which helps absorb shock and distribute weight between the femur and the tibia. An injury to this fibrocartilaginous structure can cause pain and inflammation of the knee joint, besides affecting its range of motion.
It is usually associated with repetitive twitching movements, and the act of bearing more weight than what the meniscus can withstand. This can normally occur in individuals engaged in sport activities, especially those who play football and basketball. Even people who frequently participate in skiing can get this type of injury.
Sometimes, a tear in the medial meniscus can also be caused by trivial movements, mainly due to some degenerative conditions where the cartilage wears away with advancing age. But more commonly, it occurs when the knee joint is twisted abruptly when the foot is fixed on the ground. Even the gradual wear and tear of the knee joint can cause a meniscus injury.
Signs and Symptoms
Pain and swelling are the most common symptoms associated with a meniscus injury. However, one can also observe a few other symptoms, such as:
- A clicking sound that can be heard at the time of injury
- Knee pain, especially on the inner surface of the knee
- Inflammation and swelling
- Locking of the knee joint
- Inability to bend the knee joint
- Inability to bear weight on the knee
There are several treatment options for this condition depending on the severity of the injury. Usually, a meniscus tear can be of four types – longitudinal tear, radial tear, bucket-handle tear, and degenerative changes. A longitudinal tear is the tear along the length of the meniscus. When the meniscus is torn from the edge towards the inside, it is called a radial tear. A bucket-handle tear, on the other hand, is a severe type of longitudinal tear, where a portion of the meniscus gets separated from the tibia.
A minor tear or injury can be treated with adequate rest, elevation, compression bandage, and the application of ice. The application of ice or cold packs can significantly reduce the pain and the swelling. The affected individual is generally advised to use a knee brace to stabilize the joint. Crutches can also be used, which can help avoid putting pressure on the injured knee while walking. If the pain and swelling do not subside with the application of ice, then non-steroidal medications can be used, as per the directions given by a physician.
As the condition improves, the affected individual can start doing certain activities or exercises to regain the joint strength. Exercises are an important part of the rehabilitation program. Exercises like knee flexion, knee extension, stretches, calf stretches, leg curl, hip bridges, squat, and hamstring hold can help regain the strength and the range of motion of the knee joint. However, be sure to talk to your physician before starting any of these exercises.
Surgery is opted for the treatment of a meniscus tear, when all the other treatment options fail to provide relief. This usually happens in the case of a severe injury, like a bucket-handle tear or the locking of the knee joint. Arthroscopic knee surgery or meniscus tear surgery is usually more beneficial for the younger patients. The older patients with reduced level of activity may not respond well to this treatment. Arthroscopic knee surgery is usually followed by a rehabilitation program that includes appropriate exercises.
The recovery time can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the injury and the age of the affected individual. With proper care, one can expect to recover within a few weeks (2 to 3 weeks), if the injury is mild. If the tear is moderate, one may require more time, approximately 4 to 6 weeks to recover completely. However, surgery can extend the recovery time.
With arthroscopic knee surgery, one may require about 6 to 8 weeks to recover fully and resume the normal activities. The recovery time can further extend, if other structures of the knee get injured, along with the meniscus. In general, one can get relief from this condition within the shortest possible time, if it is treated as soon as possible. Therefore, all types of knee injuries should be properly evaluated to ensure prompt treatment.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.