Meniscus tears refer to the damage or rupture of the cartilage piece that serves as a cushion between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). It gets torn due to activities that apply heavy pressure on or rotate the knee joint such as pivoting, deep squatting, heavy lifting, or sudden stops and turns or sports activities. According to the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (EFORT), the meniscus tear is one of the most commonly encountered and treated knee joint injuries.
Symptoms of Meniscus Tears
Here are symptoms and signs if you have a meniscus tear
- Popping sound on the knee joint
- Paint, especially when touched
- Swelling and inflammation
- Difficulty in moving the knee
- Pain when moving the knee
- Difficulty in straightening the knee
The popping sensation may indicate that the cartilage has become loose and blocks the knee joint. Call your healthcare provider if symptoms persist for a few days after injuring your knee. Seek medical help immediately if your knee locks, and you can’t bend your knee after straightening it.
What Causes Meniscus Tears?
One of the most common causes of meniscus tears is sports. Sports mainly require sudden movements, stops, and turns that create a higher risk for knee injuries. Some high-risk sports are:
- Track and Field
The Boston Children’s Hospital states that meniscus tears are starting to grow common among adolescents and children. Children these days are actively participating in sports and training at an early age. Developing children and older people have weak menisci that can tear from everyday movements like squatting, stepping, or running. However, the risk of getting a meniscus tear weakens by age and becomes common again for people over 30. A meniscus tear for an older person may occur mainly due to degeneration. The cartilage becomes weaker and thinner as you age, thus more prone to tearing.
How to Diagnose a Meniscus Tear
A meniscus tear can be diagnosed through physical examinations and imaging tests.
- Physical exam
A physical examination involves your doctor examining your knee by testing your range of motions. A McMurray test will be performed to determine a meniscus tear. The test consists in bending the knee, rotating it then straightening it. The slight pop during the test will then indicate the presence of a tear of the meniscus.
- Imaging tests
After the physical examination, the doctor will order an imaging test to further locate the tear. Imaging tests include:
- Knee X-ray
It doesn’t show or locate the meniscus tear, but it helps figure out what else might cause the pain.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
The magnetic resonance imaging utilizes a magnetic field in capturing imaging of the knee. It takes pictures of the cartilage and ligaments where the tear might be. However, MRI diagnosis isn’t 100% reliable. According to a study from the Journal of Trauma Management and Outcomes, there is 81% accuracy in the diagnosis of a tear in the medial meniscus while 77% in the lateral. The tear might not show up on an MRI due to how it resembles degenerative and age-related changes. There is also a chance that a doctor might misdiagnose a person with a torn meniscus due to the structure of the knee that may resemble a tear.
Ultrasound refers to the utilization of sound waves to capture images inside the body. It helps in spotting any loose cartilage caught in the knee.
Arthroscopy refers to the surgery where there will be a small cut or incision near the knee where an arthroscope will be inserted. An arthroscope is a flexible fiber optics device with a little light and camera to look where the tear is.
Treatment for Meniscus Tears
The RICE method refers to a conservative technique in treating a knee injury which consists:
- R – rest your knee. Avoid putting weight on the injured knee or doing any activities that may worsen its state.
- I – ice. Apply ice every three to four hours for 30 minutes to relieve any inflammation
- C – compression. Wrap your knee with an elastic bandage, which can also help in reducing inflammation.
- E – elevate. Elevate your knee using a soft pillow.
Medication for Inflammation
The doctor may prescribe a drug for pain and inflammation such as aspirin, ibuprofen or any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Your healthcare provider may suggest physical therapy for treatment, especially for athletes. It involves strengthening the muscles around the knee. It also helps in:
- increasing stability and mobility of the joints
- reducing the pain
- Reducing the stiffness and swelling
According to the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (EFORT), there are three main surgical methods for meniscus tears, namely:
- Meniscectomy – performed totally or partially, open or arthroscopically.
- Meniscal repair – performed open or arthroscopically.
- Meniscal reconstruction – replace the part or resected meniscus via meniscal scaffolds and meniscal allograft transplantation (MAT).
After the surgery, the doctor will prescribe physical therapy for consistent recovery and faster rehabilitation time.
Dr. Ronak Patel is the right doctor for the management and treatment of your meniscus tear. He specializes in treating back pain, neck pain, joint pain, facial pain, and cancer-related pain. He acquired advanced skills in the innovative spinal cord and peripheral nerve interventions/ablation, fracture repair through vertebral augmentation, state-of-the-art regenerative therapy, and both ultrasound-guided and x-ray guided procedures while training with the leaders of pain management in the country. His goal is to bring expert, comprehensive, safe, and effective pain care to as many patients as possible.
Disclaimer: Information on this website is not intended to be used in place of your professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.