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Meniscus Tear: Healing a Knee Injury

A sudden twist to your knee while your foot lie placed on the ground may have damaged the meniscus that supports your knee-joint. This causes immense pain and loss of mobility. Rehabilitation therapy to heal the damaged meniscus is the best way to overcome the condition. Learn more about the meniscus tear to adopt right rehabilitation approach.

What is the meniscus?

There are three bones called thighbone (femur), shinbone (tibia) and kneecap (patella) which form the knee-joint. Between the thighbone and shinbone, there are two rubbery wedge-shaped cartilage discs which act as shock absorbers.

These discs are known as meniscus and their role is to:

  1. balance weight throughout the joint rather than on one point
  2. increase stability
  3. restrict extreme flexion and extension
  4. nourish knee-joint
  5. control knee movements

How meniscus tear occurs?

Meniscus tear is a common knee injury that occurs due to ageing or sudden physical activity. It could occur due to:

  • playing active sports like athletics, football and badminton etc. which involves twisting and squatting the knees
  • weakened cartilage due to ageing
  • lifting heavy objects

What are the types of meniscus tear?

There are three main types of meniscus tears depending upon the severity of symptoms.

  1. Minor tear which causes slight pain and swelling. This is usually healed in 2 or 3 weeks.
  2. Moderate tear causes swelling, stiffness and limit the mobility of the knee though one can still walk. Symptoms go away in 1-2 weeks but they recur after few weeks or when the person twists or bends the knee.
  3. Severe tears occur when torn meniscus move into the joint space leading to locked knees. Crackling or popping sound is heard when one moves. One feels as if the knees will relent. Swelling, pain and stiffness may appear after few days of injury and not immediately.

What are the symptoms?

  1. Pain, stiffness and swelling
  2. Locking of your knee
  3. A sensation that your knees are ‘giving away’
  4. Inability to move the knee freely

How is meniscus tear diagnosed?

Doctors will seek your medical history and discuss the symptoms. He/she will then do a physical examination of your knee that involves checking the tenderness and swelling where the meniscus exists.

A physical test called McMurray test is carried in which your knee is bend, straightened and rotated to hear for a clicking sound. Sometimes, doctors also recommend X-rays and MRI scan to confirm the tear of meniscus.

What is the treatment of meniscus tear?

Depending on the type, size and location of meniscus tear, appropriate treatment method is chosen.

  1. If your tear is small and on the outer edge of the meniscus, non-surgical methods are best way to heal the damage. Non-surgical treatment involves – stopping the activity that trigger pain, using compression with cold packs, avoid putting weight on your leg and elevating your leg when resting.
  2. When the tear is large and cannot be managed with non-surgical methods, knee arthroscopy is performed to either trim or stitch the torn meniscus tissue.

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