The knee joint is the meeting place of four important bones: the femur, the fibia, the tibia and the knee cap. Between the femur (thighbone) and the tibia (shinbone), two small c-shaped discs of cartilage are perfectly positioned to protect the joint from impact. These discs, called menisci, absorb shock within the joint during movement. They also provide lubrication, offer stability and aid in weight bearing.
When there is an injury to a meniscus, it often affects the entire knee and can even compromise the joint’s ability to perform daily functions. In these cases, immediate meniscus treatment should be sought from qualified knee specialists, such as those at Rothman Institute.
All About Meniscus Injuries
Among the most common knee injuries, meniscal tears are frequent among athletes, but can occur in anyone, at any age. In fact, the majority of meniscus injuries occur because of a simple, one time twisting motion, an abrupt stop or a quick change of direction.
Pain, especially when rotating the knee
Stiffness and swelling that can happen immediately, but often increases over a period of two to three days
Weakness and inability to bear weight
Trouble extending the knee fully
Catching or locking that can occur if a piece of the meniscus has torn off and is floating in the joint
The good news is that with proper diagnosis by a qualified knee specialist, meniscus treatment can lead to a complete rehabilitation of the knee and the opportunity to return to a pain-free, active lifestyle once again.
All About Meniscus Treatment Options
At Rothman Institute, a sports medicine specialist, will consider the results of your physical exam and MRI, your age, weight, overall health and activity level in order to offer an accurate diagnosis and the best possible treatment plan for you.
Nonoperative: Some meniscal tears, especially in less active patients, will go on to become asymptomatic. For those who can live with a meniscal injury without significant worsening over time, surgery is often not needed. For these patients, a simple non-operative treatment plan of rest, ice and possible physical therapy is usually sufficient. Occasionally a cortisone shot will also be recommended to aid in recovery.
Partial Removal: However, other patients with more severe damage to the cartilage will not be able to function at their pre-injury level without meniscus treatment. Since a torn meniscus is a mechanical problem, it often requires a surgical solution. In some cases, after arthroscopic observation of the injury, a surgeon may opt to simply excise a portion of the damaged meniscus.
Repair: The decision to excise, versus repair, depends upon several factors including the age of patient, chronicity of the tear, and most important, location of the tear. In general, though, repair is usually preferable to removal because the menisci play such a crucial role in overall knee health and function.