The meniscus is a cartilage plate that sits in the middle of your knee joint. It provides essential cushioning between the hard ends of the thigh bone and the shin bone. The menisci (plural) also help to maintain the stability of the knee under rotational pressures.
The medial meniscus resembles a crescent whereas the lateral meniscus is an O shape. Sporting activities and general wear and tear, especially as we age, often place these cartilage plates under enormous pressure.
The cartilage can tear causing debilitating pain and restricted movement. Getting the right treatment is vital, as these injuries can be slow and difficult to heal. Meniscal tears are common knee injuries and a source of significant knee pain.
Meniscal tears usually occur either as the result of a sudden extreme overloading of the knee joint in action with a significant rotational force, as related damage in a trauma type injury or as the result of a degenerative age-related weakness.
Sports that involve jumping and twisting such as basketball, netball, and rugby are common causes of meniscal tears in young people.
Around 30% of meniscal tears occur as a result of age-related degeneration where the cartilage tissue has deteriorated. Degenerative meniscal tears typically occur in men after the age of 40 and in women older than 60.
Meniscal tears may also occur as a result of an anterior cruciate ligament injury or degeneration of the knee caused by arthritis.
You may feel a popping or clicking sensation in your knee joint. This clicking may also be audible. You may feel pain especially when you try to bend the injured knee joint and also when you touch the knee. If the tear is the result of an acute injury, you’ll probably know exactly when it happened.
Significant tears may trigger a locked knee or a collapse when you try to stand. Swelling may also be evident especially with degenerative tears.
Although the deterioration that occurs in degenerative meniscal tears takes place over a period of time the symptoms may still become apparent after a twist or fall.
Recommended treatment will depend on the severity and location of the tear. The outer edges of the meniscus have a better blood supply and so will usually heal faster and more easily than tears that occur deeper into the cartilage plate.
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) is always a good first aid treatment for any meniscal tear injury. RICE will help reduce swelling and inflammation and may help to ease some of the knee pain. It’s particularly important to rest your leg and reduce the range of motion for some time.
RICE and immobilisation may be sufficient for very minor tears. But visit your podiatrist as soon as possible. A thorough examination of your knee will determine the extent and nature of your injury. Your podiatrist will then be able to recommend the best treatment.
Soft tissue massage can help speed the process and Shockwave or Dry Needling treatments have also proven to be highly effective in tissue regeneration for meniscal tears.
We will develop a muscle strengthening programme to help your rehabilitation and to help prevent any re-occurrence of the meniscal tear injury. Hinged brace support s might be needed to help support the knee in the recovery process.
Further Treatment Options
We’ll also identify any gait issues that might be exacerbating a rotational behaviour of the knee joint or other instability. And we can develop customised orthotics to provide the stable foot and knee action you need to prevent re-injury.
In some very severe cases surgical treatment may be necessary and we can advise you if that is the case. A knee arthroscopy or magnetic resonance imaging may be required to help determine if surgical treatment is necessary. A knee arthroscopy uses a keyhole camera inserted through a small hole in your knee and will provide detailed imagery of your knee joint.
Our podiatrists have expert knowledge regarding all types of sports injuries and age related damage. See Erica Dash Podiatry for the best medical advice and treatment therapy for all your knee concerns.
Shockwave is a great alternative to treatments such as dry needling if you’re needle phobic and not keen on dry needling. We also have effective treatment offers for kids.