Meniscal tears are one of the most frequently reported injuries to the knee joint. The meniscus is a C-shaped fibrocartilaginous structure in the knee incompletely covering the surface of the tibia where it articulates with the femur. It consists of the medial meniscus, on the inner part of the knee, and the lateral meniscus on the outer aspect of the knee.
The menisci act as shock absorbers protecting the articular surface of the tibia as well as assisting in rotation of the knee. As secondary stabilizers, the intact menisci interact with the stabilizing function of the ligaments and are most effective when the surrounding ligaments are intact.
The majority of the meniscus has no blood supply and for that reason, when damaged, the meniscus is unable to undergo the normal healing process and often requires surgical repair.
In addition, a meniscus begins to deteriorate with age, often developing degenerative tears. Typically, when the meniscus is damaged, the torn pieces begin to move in an abnormal fashion inside the joint.
Menisci may tear because of many reasons as mentioned below:
- Twisting motion
- Over flexing the knee joint
- Pivoting such as in sports activities
- Sudden stopping or deceleration
- Degenerative Changes that occur over time can weaken and thin the menisci resulting in meniscal tears
Following a twisting type of injury the medial or lateral meniscus can tear. This results either from a sporting injury or may occur from a simple twisting injury when getting out of a chair or standing from a squatting position. Our cartilage becomes brittle as we get older and therefore can tear easier.
The symptoms of a meniscal tear include:
- Pain over the inner or outer side of the knee where the tear occurred
- A “popping” may be felt at the time of injury
- Knee swelling, stiffness and tightness
- Reduced range of motion
Locking can occur if the torn cartilage gets caught between the femur and tibia preventing straightening of the knee.
Evaluating the source of knee pain is critical in determining your treatment options for relief of the pain. Knee pain should be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment. Your physician will perform the following:
- Medical History
- Physical Examination
- Diagnostic test such as X-rays and MRI scan
Treatment options will depend upon the type of tear, location of the tear, and the extent of the tear. Conservative treatment measures include pain medications, rest, physical therapy, and knee immobilizers such a soft brace. If conservative treatments options fail to relieve your knee pain, your surgeon may recommend knee surgery to repair meniscal tears.