Wonder how your complete body weight is distributed evenly over the two legs? It is because of a C shaped cartilage, called meniscus, which rests between tibia (shin bone) and femur (thigh bone) and supports your skeletal structure. Each knee comprises of two menisci. One is medial meniscus, which is placed on the inner side and lateral meniscus, which is located on the periphery of your knee. Without these, the whole body weight will be unevenly distributed over the lower extremity and can lead to pain, discomfort and even disability. Due to certain physical activities, which lead to sudden bent or twist in the knee joint damaging the anatomy of the same, serious wear and tear occurs in the cartilage leading to a knee joint condition called torn meniscus. This condition is very common in athletes and aged people characterized by pain, swelling, redness and tenderness around the affected region.
Sometimes the blood vessel around the knee joint gets ruptures, leading to redness ad fluid accumulation which could increase its symptoms. To avoid this, proper medical care and rest is very necessary. In some cases, surgery is performed to trim down the damage cartilage or to replace the joint completely. It is important to take prompt medical assistance in case you feel any popping or pain in your knee joint to avoid further complications.
Causes of Torn Meniscus
Any rigorous twisting or bending of knee joint, beyond its limit, could damage the tissues and meniscus cartilage leading to pain and swelling. Generally, there are two types of causes that trigger this painful condition of knee joint, namely
- Traumatic injury- This happens in case of athletes take part in activities that lead to sudden jerk over the knee, weight lifting and even squatting.
- Degenerative process- This once is most common is older people with brittle meniscus cartilage and more torn muscles.
Other causes can be any accidental injury that has damaged the knee ligaments and muscles or even overweight because of which excess pressure is laid over the joint. If you feel pain but continue with your daily activities then more wear and tear can be caused in the joint leading to more severe complications.
Symptoms and signs of Torn Meniscus
Whenever there is a cartilage or ligament injury or tear, pain and inflammatory response such as swelling are the first and most common symptoms that our body shows up. Pain in the center and side of the knee is prime sign of torn meniscus due to fluid accumulation and swelling. Its severity depends on the type of this condition- minor, moderate and severe tear- and can even lead to locking- a block caused by torn meniscus fragments which get impinge in the knee and restricts complete straightening or extension of it. In very few cases buckling of knee can also be seen in which sensation in knee is lost and it becomes unstable. If this problem persists for long term, more damage is caused to cartilage surface of meniscus, due to constant rubbing, which could lead to knee joint osteoarthritis and possibly its replacement. The problem increases with your age and could lead to complete halt.
Some of the very common signs and symptoms of torn meniscus are:
- Knee pain
- Knee swelling
- Limited and painful movement of knee joint
- Clicking or popping sound when moving knee
- Tenderness in the affected region
Diagnosis of Torn Meniscus
The process of diagnosis of torn meniscus begins with complete study of your medical history for knowing when and how your knee got hurt followed by physical examination. Many people cannot remember the initial injury while others who participate in athletic activities and training can point towards the exact time and detail of the same.
- Physical examination is done by inspecting and feeling the joint for tenderness, warmth and extent of motion. Any clicking or popping sound, which comes on slight moving or rotating the knee, indicates positive signs of meniscus tear. This procedure examines the mechanism of knee joint.
- MRI or magnetic resonance imaging is done to visualize the inside structure of knee joint- cartilage, bone surface, tendons, muscles and ligaments- to confirm torn meniscus. It can be taken as a diagnostic test or planning procedure before knee surgery.
- X-Ray is done to identify tears, fractures and dislocation of knee joint. Another technique used for meniscus diagnosis is arthroscopy, in which a small scope is inserted within the knee structure and examined. Necessary repair can be done side by side using additional tools.
Treatment for Torn Meniscus
After diagnosis of torn meniscus, its severity and location, proper treatment is suggested by a health care professional. In many cases, initial treatment offer great relief along with physical therapy which go side by side, but in case, the tear is severe and completely damaged, surgery and even knee joint replacement is adopted.
- Initially, ice packs are used to reduce pain and swelling in the knee followed by rest, not complete halt, which is necessary to keep pressure off the joint and promote healing. There are certain medications and anti-inflammatory ointments which can be used to ease in knee pain.
- Physical therapy is employed to strengthen knee and leg muscles and offer proper support for stabilizing them. Shoe inserts like arch supports distribute the pressure around the knee effectively and thus reduce stress.
- In case your knee joint is locked or pain persists for long time, then your doctor can recommend you surgery which can either be for repairing torn meniscus, like in the case of arthroscopic surgery, or for complete knee replacement.
Once your torn meniscus is treated, it is important to give necessary recovery time to your knee joint for proper healing. Rest is very important. Apart from this, knee strengthening exercises should be performed and no activity which leads to twisting in the joint and legs should be done. In the long run, the pain will begin to disappear and you can enjoy a life free from pain and discomfort once again.