Knee pain and swelling are the most common symptoms of a meniscus injury. A tear in the meniscus usually occurs due to a traumatic knee injury. Find out the causes, symptoms, and the treatment of this condition, in this HealthHearty article.
A meniscus tear is one of the most common knee injuries. This condition is often referred to as the ‘torn cartilage in the knee’. The knee joint is the place where three bones, known as the femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone), and patella (kneecap) meet. The meniscus is a C-shaped rubbery cartilage that cushions the knee joint. There are two menisci in the knee joint – one is located on the outer side of the knee (lateral meniscus) and the other is on the inside of the knee (medial meniscus).
The two menisci act as shock absorbers, and help distribute the weight of the body across the knee joint. They also maintain the stability of the knee joint by preventing the rounded surface of the femur from slipping off the flat surface of the tibia. The meniscus can sustain a tear due to a traumatic injury that can be caused by twitching movements. This kind of injury is usually received while playing contact sports.
A tear in the meniscus can occur due to an injury, or it can result from degenerative processes. It can be a common sport injury, which may occur when the knee is twisted suddenly, and also while practicing squats. The incidence of this type of injury is more among those who play contact sports. Sometimes, a meniscus tear can also occur as a result of degenerative processes, which can cause progressive weakening of the cartilage. The cartilage can wear away with advancing age, and thus become more vulnerable to sustain a tear.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of this condition can be mild or severe, depending on the severity of the tear and its location. The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms that such an injury can produce:
- Knee Pain
- Swelling of the knee
- Stiffness of the knee joint
- Limited movement
- Locking of the knee joint
If the tear is minor, one can get pain and swelling, which can go away within a few weeks. On the other hand, a moderate tear can cause pain at the side or center of the knee joint, as well as swelling that can worsen after a day or two. It can also cause joint stiffness and difficulty in bending the knee joint. Another common problem is joint locking. Because of joint locking, one may fail to straighten the knee completely. This can be a symptom of severe tearing, as joint locking can occur if a piece of torn cartilage enters the joint space.
The treatment of this condition depends on a number of factors, including the type of the tear, and its size and location. Generally, if the tear occurs in the lateral meniscus, it can heal easily, as this area is nourished by small blood vessels. But the inner meniscus does not have a rich supply of blood vessels, for which a tear in this meniscus cannot heal on its own. This type of meniscus tear can require surgical intervention.
On the other hand, a minor tear on the outer side of the meniscus can be managed with non-surgical treatment options, like the application of ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes, physicians may recommend the patient to wear an elastic compression bandage, in order to prevent further swelling.
These non-surgical treatment options, along with physical therapy, can help alleviate the symptoms of a meniscus tear within a couple of weeks. But if the tear is severe, and occurs in the medial meniscus, then arthroscopic knee surgery may be required. In this surgical method, a tiny camera is inserted inside the knee through a small incision, to get a clear view of the inside of the knee. The surgeon then repairs or trims the torn portion of the meniscus by making some small incisions, and inserting the surgical instruments through them.
So, a tear of the meniscus can be minor or major, which in turn would determine the entire course of treatment. To ensure prompt treatment and recovery, any kind of knee pain and swelling resulting from an injury needs to be properly evaluated, so as to find out whether these are the symptoms of a meniscus tear. Physicians carefully observe these symptoms, and then perform an X-ray and MRI of the knee, along with a few other tests, to evaluate the condition and find out the type of injury.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.